Can Diet Sodas Lead to Heart Attacks?

It’s a fact – people are aware of the dangers of sugar – are avoiding regular soda – but have substituted diet beverages under┬áthe impression that they made a wise choice. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth.

Women who drink diet soda may think they’re doing the right thing by not filling up on sugary, high-calorie beverages, but they could be damaging their hearts in the process.

The study: Led by Ankur Vyas, M.D., a cardiovascular disease fellow at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, the team analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study of nearly 60,000 healthy, postmenopausal women in the United States. The women, whose average age was 63, were asked to estimate how many artificially sweetened beverages, including diet sodas and low-calorie fruit drinks, they had consumed daily for the previous three months.

Based on their answers to this question, the researchers divided the women into four groups:
1. Two or more diet drinks a day
2. Five to seven diet drinks a week
3. One to four diet drinks a week
4. Never or only rarely consume diet drinks

Nine years later, the researchers followed up with the 60,000 women to find out how many had experienced heart-related medical issues, including heart attacks, strokes and blood clots that threaten the legs, arms, organs or head, as well as surgery to reopen clogged arteries, heart failure, and death from heart trouble.

The results: Those who consumed two or more diet beverages a day were 30 percent more likely to have suffered some kind of heart ailment during the nine-year period than women who rarely or never consumed artificially sweetened beverages.

This association between diet soda and heart problems persisted even after the researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened beverage intake.

On average, women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and higher body mass index.

If you enjoy diet soda, do note this: The authors caution that since the study followed women over time and asked about habits that were already in place, it can’t prove that diet drinks were the cause of the heart problems. More definitive research is needed before you pour that diet soda down the sink.

The study findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, in Washington, D.C.

–From the Editors at Netscape

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credits: Ahmed Woh

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