By Tracey Leong

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For decades, those not wanting to consume calories along with their carbonated beverages have been able to turn to diet soda, instead.

A new study published this month in the American Heart Association’s journal, “Stroke,” shows that may not be the best idea.

The data shows that people who drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage per day, compared with those who drank less than one per week, had nearly three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia.

Researchers analyzed data from 2,888 people over the age of 45 for the stroke study and 1,484 people over age 60 for the dementia study.

Over a period of seven years, participants reported their eating and drinking habits by responding to food frequency questionnaires. The researchers then followed up with the study subjects for the next 10 years to determine who developed stroke or dementia, then compared their dietary information.

Sugar-sweetened beverages were not associated with stroke or dementia.

“Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option,” said Matthew Pase, Ph.D., who worked on the study. “We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages.”

“Even if someone is three times as likely to develop stroke or dementia, it is by no means a certain fate,” he added. “In our study, three percent of the people had a new stroke and five percent developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia.”

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