Scientists are now saying that people who drink diet drinks are about three times more likely to suffer a stroke or be diagnosed with dementia.
A group of scientists from Boston University have conducted a new study that suggests that diet beverages are more likely to cause strokes or dementia than those filled with sugar, the Daily Mail reported.
Although the scientists could not find a link between sugary drinks and either of the illnesses, they are now saying that diet drinks should not be regarded as a healthy alternative. They are urging the public to drink water or milk.
The study was published in the American Heart Association's journal, "Stroke." Researchers examined 4,372 adults over the age 45.
Scientists had their subjects fill out questionnaires detailing their food and drink intake in the 1990s, and were then tracked for a decade.
According to the study, adults who had one or more diet drinks a day were 2.9 times more at risk of developing dementia and 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke, as compared to adults who drank none.
Scientists believe the artificial sweeteners, which include aspartame and saccharine, could be affecting the blood vessels, eventually triggering dementia and/or strokes.
"Our study shows a need to put more research into this area given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages," senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine Matthew Pase said in a statement. "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.
"We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages."
Scientists added that even if someone is three times more likely to suffer a stroke or develop dementia, it doesn't mean it is a certain fate.
"In our study, 3 percent of the people had a new stroke and 5 percent developed dementia, so we're still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia," Pase concluded.
"We know that limiting added sugars is an important strategy to support good nutrition and healthy body weights, and until we know more, people should use artificially sweetened drinks cautiously," added Rachel Johnson, former chairwoman of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. "They may have a role for people with diabetes and in weight loss, but we encourage people to drink water, low-fat milk or other beverages without added sweeteners."
Spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association responded to the new study, saying that low-calorie sweeteners found in beverages have already been confirmed as safe by worldwide government safety authorities, CNN reported.
"The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion -- they are safe for consumption," she said in a statement.