Drinking two or more diet drinks a day could increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and the likelihood of an early death, new research has found.
A study of 81,417 post-menopausal women found that drinking two or more diet drinks a day - including fizzy drinks and fruit-based diet drinks - led to a 23 per cent increase in the risk of having a stroke.
Compared with women who consumed diet drinks less than once a week or never, women who consumed two or more of the artificially-sweetened drinks a day were 29 per cent more likely to develop heart disease, and 16 per cent more likely to die from any cause.
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The women in the study were aged 50 to 79 when it began and were tracked for an average of 12 years.
Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: "Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet.
'Most prudent thing to do for your health'
"Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease."
The authors stressed that the study found a link but could not prove that diet drinks caused stroke and heart problems.
One serving of a diet drink in the study was regarded as 355ml.
Dr Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition emeritus at the University of Vermont and chairwoman of the writing group for the American Heart Association's science advisory, Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages And Cardiometabolic Health, said: "This study adds to the evidence that limiting use of diet beverages is the most prudent thing to do for your health."