Health & Fitness: Stroke warning: Widely consumed drink may have 'direct link' to stroke warns BMJ study

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A stroke is caused by a clot in the arteries - the vessels that transport blood to tissues and organs. Sometimes these form because cholesterol-filled plaque inside the vessels has broken open. In other instances, however, a blood clot forms in a narrowed section of the artery, causing an instant blockage. The condition has many established causes, but studies linking artificial sweeteners to stroke have yielded mixed results.

Now, a new study of French adults has exposed a "potential direct association" between higher artificial sweetener intake and increased cardiovascular risk, including heart attack and stroke, Medical Xpress has reported.

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The food additive is used by millions as a low-calorie alternative to sugar, but growing evidence has raised questions about its effects on health.

The Mayo Clinic states that it is "widely used" in products including:

  • Soft drinks
  • Baked goods
  • Canned foods
  • Dairy products

Several studies to date have linked artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened beverages to weight gain, high blood pressure and inflammation.

There have been mixed findings, however, around the link between artificial sweeteners and cardiovascular disease.

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sugar © Getty sugar

The latest study, published in BMJ, probed this link by assessing the dietary intake of artificial sweeteners through data for 103,3888 participants enrolled in the French NutriNet-Santé study.

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Researchers examined repeated 24-hour dietary records as well as other potentially influential lifestyle factors.

Sweeteners from dietary sources included in the analysis were:

  • Tabletop sweeteners
  • Dairy products
  • Beverages

Various types of sweeteners were also assessed, including

  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Sucralose
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A total 37 percent of participants consumed artificial sweeteners, with an average intake of approximately 42.46 mg/day.

This equates roughly to an individual packet of tabletop sweetener or 100 ml of diet soda.

More than 1,500 cardiovascular events were recorded during the average follow-up period of nine years.

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A breakdown of the data revealed that aspartame intake was associated with increased cerebrovascular events, while acesulfame potassium and sucralose were linked with an increased risk of coronary heart disease risk.

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high blood pressure © Getty high blood pressure

Due to the observational nature of the analysis, it was unable to confirm any causal relationship between artificial sweeteners and cardiovascular disease.

In previous talks with express.co.uk, Professor Mark Whitely, a leading consultant in venous surgery and founder of the Whiteley Clinic explained despite existing disparities across studies, caution should be practised when taking artificial sweeteners.

The expert cited a 2007 publication, which found artificial sweeteners caused no obvious changes in blood constituents over and above what would be expected after a normal meal.

That same year, however, another study performed on mice given high doses of aspartame for two months, discovered that the protein that makes blood clots was found to be more complex and dense than normal.

Stroke: The seemingly 'harmless' drink associated with a 31% higher risk of stroke

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stroke © EXPRESS.CO.UK stroke

Professor Whiteley noted: "As with all such research, this can be taken to suggest that aspartame taken regularly may have a negative effect on a breakdown of blood clots, increasing the risk of clots in the circulation.

"Although the association between artificially sweetened beverages and stroke or coronary artery disease has been published more than once in the medical literature, it is very difficult to prove that the drinks are the cause of the observed heart and brain events."

The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) issued the following statement in response to the new findings: "Contrary to claims made in this study, there is no causal evidence that low/no calorie sweeteners could increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).

"Indeed, whilst the [...] study claim to show an association between low/no calorie sweeteners intake and CVD risk, there is no evidence of a plausible mechanism to support potential effects of low/no calorie sweeteners on cardiometabolic health.

"The safety of all approved low/no calorie sweeteners has been confirmed by food safety bodies worldwide including the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and of the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."

What to expect in home care and hospice spaces .
Imagining a life where you or a loved one receive home care, or live in a hospice, can be scary. You don't really know what to expect when leaving someone you cherish in an unfamiliar place or with an unfamiliar person during a vulnerable time in their life. From caring for a terminally ill person to general elder care, patients and families can be under great stress. This is when they require a caregiver to help process and address their needs. But how can one ensure loved ones are in good hands? By knowing what to expect in home care and hospice spaces, you'll be much more at ease and able to trust the professional hired for the job. Intrigued? For more, check out the following slides.

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