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Daily Diet Soda Intake Increases Risk For Stroke And Heart Attack

Feb 9th, 2012

Diet sodaMany made the switch from sugary sodas to low-calorie alternatives thinking that it’s the healthier choice. But a new study suggests that drinking diet sodas might be bad for your heart and head.

Researchers presented the results of their ten year study involving 2,564 New Yorkers at the International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles this week. The study found that those who consumed diet soda every day are 43 percent more likely to experience vascular events like stroke and heart attack.

However, the researchers are not in a rush to advise consumers to avoid diet soda products. “We still need to conduct more studies regarding the subject before that happens,” according to research leader Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“Diet soda drinkers should stay tuned,” Gardener said. “No one should alter their lifestyle based only on one study. Hopefully this will pave the way for more researchers to conduct similar studies.”

However, some may have already begun heeding the advise and are already avoiding their diet drinks.

Researchers studied the subjects’ diet, activity level, and alcohol and cigarette consumption. Physical check-ups, which included blood pressure measurements and blood tests for cholesterol, were also conducted  to assess the risk for heart attack and stroke.

The high risk of vascular events persisted even after other risk factors like smoking, poor diet, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure were removed. Putting the blame diet drinks even more, the study found no increased risk among regular soda drinkers.

Does this mean that diet sodas contain substances that hurt our blood vessels? “There is still no answer to that question,” Gardener said. “There could be a common factor among diet soda drinkers that yielded this result.”

“For example, it’s possible that those who consume diet sodas replace the sugar calories they save with unhealthy food choices,” Gardener added.

“That explanation is plausible,” according to Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “The researchers know how much calories the volunteers consumed but they did not account for their unhealthy eating habits.”

“Subjects might be grabbing cheeseburgers and large fries along with their diet sodas,” Mehta said. “It is possible that diet sodas are not the culprit. It may be the other items that people consume along with it.”

“That being said, there is always the possibility that there is indeed something in diet sodas that can cause vascular problems,” Mehta added. This is already the second study that links diet sodas with health issues. A previous study tied diet sodas to an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, another risk factor for heart problems and stroke.

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