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May 2, 2019


ThedaCare Provider Explains Recent Study


May 7, 2019


ThedaCare Provider Explains Recent Study

APPLETON, Wis. – Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and beverages have long been known to contribute to weight gain and related health problems. If you often turn to your favorite diet drink instead, you may want to know more about recent news suggesting a link between artificially sweetened drinks and stroke. A study published in the medical journal Stroke in February was picked up by mainstream media and widely reported, and the results aren’t as clear as some reports might have implied.

“We know that sugary drinks are empty calories and can contribute to excess weight, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health conditions,” said Simone Fearon, MD, Medical Director and Physician Leader with ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care. “This isn’t the first time that a study has suggested a possible increased health risk with diet drinks. The recent study stopped short of showing that diet drinks cause stroke. The link isn’t clear without further research — and you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to go back to sugar-sweetened beverages.”

The study followed more than 80,000 postmenopausal women for around 12 years. The women were asked how often they drank one, 12-ounce serving of diet beverage over the previous three months. After controlling for various lifestyle factors, the research team found that women who said that they had two or more artificially sweetened beverages each day were 31% more likely to have a clot-based stroke, 29% more likely to have heart disease and 16% more likely to die from any cause than women who reported drinking diet beverages less than once a week or not at all. The increased risk was highest for women who were African American, obese and who did not already have diabetes or heart disease at the start of the study.

“The risk seemed to be particularly increased for a certain subtype of ischemic stroke caused by blockage of the smallest arteries inside the brain — regardless of weight or race,” explained Dr. Fearon.

While these results are concerning, even the research team acknowledged that the results show only an association and not necessarily causation. Also, data on types of sweeteners was not included, so there’s no way to determine whether the risk increased with a particular sweetener. More research is needed to determine whether artificial sweeteners are really to blame — and what we should do about it.

If you’d rather play it safe, Fearon has a common-sense solution — learn to love water.

“Plain old water is probably the healthiest answer for hydration,” she said. “If you keep a glass of water nearby, you’re less likely to reach for sweetened drinks — and that’s a good habit to break.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.