Daily diet soda may increase risk of heart attack, stroke: study

Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:14pm EST

Related Topics

(Reuters) - Diet soda may benefit the waistline, but people who drink it every day may have a heightened risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a new U.S. study.

Although the researchers, whose work appeared in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that older adults who drank diet soda every day were 44 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack, their research did not prove that the sugar-free drinks alone were to blame.

There may be other things about diet-soda lovers that explain the connection, said lead researcher Hannah Gardener, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and her team.

"What we saw was an association. These people may tend to have more unhealthy habits," she said.

She and her colleagues tried to account for that, noting that daily diet-soda drinkers did tend to be heavier and more often have heart risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Gardener and her team studied 2,564 New York City adults who were 69 years or older at the study's start. Over the next decade, 591 men and women had a heart attack, stroke or died of cardiovascular causes -- including 31 percent of the 163 people who drank a diet soda daily at the start of the study.

Overall, daily consumption of diet soda was linked to a 44-percent higher chance of heart attack or stroke, compared with 22 percent for people who rarely or never drank diet soda but had a heart attack or stroke.

Gardener said that if diet soda itself contributes to health risks, it's not clear how.

Some research in rats suggests that artificial sweeteners can end up boosting food intake and weight, but whether these results translate to humans is unknown.

"I don't think people should change their behavior based on this study," Gardener said, noting that further study is needed to confirm a connection between diet soda and cardiovascular trouble.

SOURCE: bit.ly/widyUV

(Reporting from New York by Amy Norton; Editing by Elaine Lies and Michael Perry)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
arroyowash wrote:
Your opening sentence says that diet soda benefits the waistline. Seems somebody in the newsroom has been living under a rock. In June 2011, for example, the magazine The Week published: “Are diet sodas making you fat? Low-calorie drinks were never a miracle weight-loss drug, but it turns out they may actually be costing you victory in the battle of the bulge.”

That story – and others – were triggered when researchers at the University of Texas presented data to the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association. But that was not even the first time – the findings of eight years of solid research on diet soda and weight gain was reported to the American Diabetes Association at its annual meeting in 2006. Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, had looked at eight years of data from 1,550 people aged 25 to 64. “What didn’t surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity,” Fowler reported. “What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher. There was a 41 percent increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day.”

Sweet tastes promote the release of insulin, which blocks the body’s ability to burn fat. This is an adaptive response, because for millions of years sweet tastes have meant that blood glucose levels are about to rise, and when there is excess sugar, it ought to be stored for times when food is not readily available. Artificial sweeteners have the same effect on insulin: sweet diet drinks will increase insulin and thus the storage of fat. In diet sodas though, no sugar is provided by the beverage, so the consumer stores away glucose already present in the blood. Now that glucose is not available for energy. Blood sugar takes a dive, the person likely feels lethargic, and then feelings of hunger kick in. The consumer eats more, and gains weight. The consumer may reach for another diet soda or even a candy bar to get that pick-me-up feeling.

So why is Reuters erroneously promoting the idea that diet soda helps people lose weight?

Feb 20, 2012 6:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
linZjoeRD wrote:
Lead researcher of this study, Hannah Gardener, said it best, “I don’t think people should change their behavior based on this study.” I agree with her for many reasons. One, because it is unclear from this study’s findings whether or not diet sodas alone contribute to cardiovascular events. Gardener herself explains that there are other lifestyle habits & behaviors that may have impacted their conclusions. And two, because I have experienced firsthand with my clients – both individuals and corporate clients like Coca-Cola – the positive outcomes that low & no-calorie beverages can have for someone who is trying to reach a healthier weight or control their blood sugar levels. As a registered dietitian, I constantly hear about how low & no-calorie options allow for individuals to enjoy the taste & feel of a drink that might otherwise sidetrack their health efforts. So, when looking at decreasing your risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or cardiovascular death, be sure to take a look at your other lifestyle patterns along with your current eating habits, such as the amount of stress in your life or how much regular physical activity your able to get.

Feb 22, 2012 8:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
schroedercl3 wrote:
Arroyowash makes a great point regarding diet soda that I’m sure nobody disagrees with but please note, the article states “Diet soda may benefit the waistline…” it does not say “Diet soda benefits the waistline…”

They choose their words carefully in the hopes of avoiding accusations such as this (“erroneously promoting”).

Feb 22, 2012 9:55am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Pictures