According to a new study presented at yesterday’s American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles, there appears to be a definite correlation between diet soda consumption and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
In the study of more than 2,500 subjects, people who drank diet soda daily had a 61 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who drank no soda. This was found to be true even when accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and daily calories.
“This study suggests that diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may be associated with a greater risk of stroke,” Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami and her colleagues reported at the conference. Gardener is an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.
Keep in mind, this was a questionnaire-based study and it did generate some criticism by experts in diet, nutrition and vascular disease. It does not show cause and effect, but suggest a link.
ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said, “This study has major flaws and should not change anyone’s diet soda consumption.”
Some obvious explanations for the correlation may simply be that people who drink a lot of diet soda feel they can eat more and are consuming more calories and fat than those who drink water. Another reason may be that a poor diet can cause metabolic syndrome which is linked to heart disease and stroke. Incidentally, an earlier study shows that metabolic syndrome is also linked to drinking diet soda.
A more compelling reason however, may be that the caramel coloring found in diet drinks has been linked to vascular problems.
While doctors are calling for caution and saying that more studies must be done before they tell people to stop drinking diet soda, they do agree that for those who have risk factors and/or a family history, it make sense to avoid diet drinks until further studies are done.
“I think diet soda drinkers need to stay tuned,” Gardener said. “I don’t think that anyone should be changing their behaviors based on one study. Hopefully this will motivate other researchers to do more studies.”
Do you drink diet soda daily? Have you ever let your kids drink it? Will this study affect your consumption of diet drinks?