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Diet soda daily might contribute to heart attack, stroke

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Diet soft drinks linked to higher risk of stroke, heart attack

A new investigation finds a possible link between daily consumption of diet soda and increased risk of stroke, heart attack or dying from a vascular event.

Compared to people who didn’t drink diet soda, the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or dying from a blood vessel disease was 43 percent higher over a ten-year period for participants who drank unsweetened soft drinks daily.

In contrast, drinking regular soda and unsweetened soda occasionally did not seem to increase stroke and heart attack rates.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and at Columbia University Medical Center compared the number of vascular events among 2,564 participants in the NIH-funded Northern Manhattan Study related to soft drink consumption.

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The 43 percent higher rate of vascular events was found among diet soda consumers even after taking into account other risk factors such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Lead study author Hannah Gardener says it’s too early to draw conclusions from the finding. "Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes. However, the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear."

The researchers say though diet soft drinks are marketed as a healthier alternative to prevent weight gain and obesity, the long-term health consequences of the lower calorie beverages remain unclear.

Participants in the study who drank one diet soft drink a month or six a week and those who drank regular soda had fewer vascular events, including heart attack and stroke, compared to people consuming diet soda on a daily basis.

Gardener H et al (2012)
“Diet soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of vascular events in the Northern Manhattan Study.”
Journal of General Internal Medicine: DOI 10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2

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