Regular diet soda consumption may significantly raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Miami and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Researchers surveyed 2,564 residents of New York City over the age of 68 about their consumption of both diet soda and non-diet soft drinks. They analyzed the data in such a way as to control for potential confounding factors, including age, body mass index, sex, race/ethnicity, education, alcohol consumption, smoking, and daily consumption of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, saturated fat and sodium. They also controlled for any effect of underlying health conditions including metabolic syndrome, cardiac disease, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and peripheral vascular disease.
Even after controlling for all these variables, the researchers found that people who drank diet soda daily had a 44 percent higher risk of certain cardiovascular conditions than those who drank such beverages less frequently. A total of 31 percent of the daily diet soda drinkers had suffered a heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease by the end of the study, compared with only 22 percent of the less-regular consumers.
No increase in cardiovascular risk was observed from consumption of regular (non-diet) soda.
Something about diet beverages?Because the study looked only at correlation, the researchers could not say for certain whether the diet soda itself was causing the cardiovascular problems observed.
"What we saw was an association," lead researcher Hannah Gardener said. "These people may tend to have more unhealthy habits."
Indeed, the researchers did find that daily drinkers ofsoda did tend to weigh more, have less healthy cholesterol levels, and higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes than other study participants. The researchers' statistical analysis should have controlled for the effect of these factors, however.
Some research has linked artificial sweeteners with increased food consumption weight gain in animals. Other studies have linked the zero-calorie sweeteners aspartame and saccharin with other health problems, including headaches, ringing ears, cancer and disorders of the nervous system.
It was important that the Miami researchers examine dietdirectly, because previous studies have already established a solid link between the consumption of any carbonated beverages and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, a study published in the journal Circulation in 2008 found that consuming one or more carbonated beverages daily corresponded with a 48 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome, regardless of whether thewas diet or sugary. Likewise, participants who began the study without metabolic syndrome were 44 percent more likely to develop it if they drank one or more carbonated soft drinks a day.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of linked symptoms associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, such as central obesity, high blood fat, high blood sugar and poor cholesterol levels.
The Circulation , which was part of the ongoing Framingham Heart Study, found that daily soda consumption also worsened many of these symptoms. Regular soda drinkers were 25 percent more likely to suffer fasting hyperglycemia and to have elevated blood triglycerides, 30 percent more likely to have a larger waist circumference, 31 percent more likely to be classified as obese, and 32 percent more likely to have low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.
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