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Diet soda linked to strokes

New research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011 suggests that diet soda may increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and vascular-related deaths.

I bet you thought by swapping out those sugar-laden sodas for diet colas, you'd be doing your body a drink of good. Before you take another diet sip, you might want to kick your soft drink habit altogether. New research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011 suggests that diet soda increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and vascular-related deaths.
I bet you thought by swapping out those sugar-laden sodas for diet colas, you'd be doing your body a drink of good. Before you take another diet sip, you might want to kick your soft drink habit altogether. New research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011 suggests that diet soda increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and vascular-related deaths.

Diet soda is not a healthy substitute

In findings involving 2,564 people in the large, multi-ethnic Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), scientists said people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who reported no soda drinking, according to a press release on the American Heart Association website.

“If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes,” said Hannah Gardener, ScD, lead author of the study and epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Florida.

What's your diet soda habit?

In the study, researchers asked subjects at the outset to report how much and what kind of soda they drank.

Based on the data, they grouped participants into seven consumption categories:

  • no soda (meaning less than one soda of any kind per month)

  • moderate regular soda only (between one per month and six per week)

  • daily regular soda (at least one per day)

  • moderate diet soda only

  • daily diet soda only

  • two groups of people who drink both types: moderate diet and any regular, and daily diet with any regular


Diet sodas linked to heart disease

During an average follow-up of 9.3 years, 559 vascular events occurred (including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by rupture of a weakened blood vessel). Researchers accounted for participants’ age, sex, race or ethnicity, smoking status, exercise, alcohol consumption and daily caloric intake. And even after researchers also accounted for patients’ metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease and heart disease history, the increased risk persisted at a rate 48 percent higher.

Diet soda study has its limitations

Any study based on self-reported information from participants has limited applicability because we humans aren't always accurate in our reporting, especially about our dietary habits. Additionally, the soda study lacks data on types of diet and regular drinks consumed, preventing analysis of whether variations among brands or changes over time in coloring and sweeteners might have played a role in the increased incidence of vascular events.

What does this mean for you? It's possible that drinking diet soda can hurt your heart health, so why not ditch your soda habit and hydrate your body with healthier fluids, such as water, green tea, or fresh juices?

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