Could diet soft drinks cause heart attacks and strokes?

sugary drinksThe diet sugar-free soft drink…often seen as a beneficial tool in the quest for weight loss and a staple in the diet of many people trying to lose weight that may have a sweet tooth. With almost zero calories and apparently none of the spoonfuls of sugar that has been lumped into their full-sugared counterparts, diet drinks are almost too good to be true.

However, this too good to be true mantra, may actually be fitting after the alarming findings of a new study into artificially sweetened fizzy drinks and the impact they can have on our body.

Worryingly, those people who are drinking two or more diet soft drinks each day may be a staggering 50% more likely to die because heart disease. This conclusion was arrived at after health experts looked at the diet drink consumption of nearly 60,000 people taking part in the women’s health initiative, a long-term US study into the cardiovascular health of post-menopausal women.

The average age of the women was calculated at 62.8 and all women must have had no prior history of cardiovascular problems to be involved in the study.

Through a questionnaire, women were asked to document how many diet drinks they drank over a duration of three months, with a drink being taken as a 12oz (355ml) sized beverage including diet soft and fruit drinks.

The researchers tracked the women for an average follow-up time of about 9 years, variety of negative outcomes occurred in 8.5% of those who drank at least two diet drinks each day. These negative outcomes included: coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular death.

In contrast, negative outcomes occurred in 6.9% of the women who drank between five and seven drinks each week, within 6.8% that had drank one to four drinks per week, and 7.2% drinking between zero and three diet drinks each month.

“Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome,” commented Dr Ankur Vyas, of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, lead investigator of the study. The syndrome has been linked to a number of risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.

“We only found an association, so we can’t say that diet drinks cause these problems,” Dr Vyas added, highlighting there may be other reasons for the link between diet drinks and a risk of heart attack and stroke.

Dr Vyas stressed that the women who had drink two or more diet drinks each day were typically younger in age, more likely to smoke, with a higher prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and of being overweight, adding that further research should be conducted to see if there is an actual definite link between diet drinks and cardiovascular risk.

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