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Daily dose of diet soda may increase heart attack risk: Study

4 commentsBy Nathan Gray , 02-Feb-2012
Last updated on 02-Feb-2012 at 18:05 GMT

Daily dose of diet soda may increase heart attack risk: Study

People who drink diet soft drinks could be at an increased risk of suffering from heart attacks or stroke, according to new research findings.

The study – published in Journal of General Internal Medicine – investigated the potential link between daily consumption of soft drinks and the risk of vascular events such as heart attack and stroke. The researchers found that individuals who drink diet soft drinks on a daily basis could be at a 43% increased risk of such vascular events, but found no increase in risk for consumption of ‘regular’ soft drinks.

"Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes. However, the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear,” said lead researcher Hannah Gardener of the Columbia University Medical Center, USA.

However the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) responded, warning that “we should be cautious in drawing lessons” from the study because it does not take important risk factors including family histories or weight gain into consideration.

“It [also] conflicts with a very well-established idea that the consumption of diet drinks as part of a calorie-controlled diet can help reduce obesity and thus reduce the incidence of strokes,” said the BSDA.

Gardener said that further research in the area is needed “before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the potential health consequences of diet soft drink consumption."

Healthy diet

Rising rates of obesity in recent decades have led to artificially sweetened soft drinks being marketed as healthier alternatives to ‘regular’ sugar-sweetened beverages – due to their lack of calories.

However, the authors noted that the long-term health consequences of drinking diet soft drinks remain unclear. They added that previous research has linked both diet and regular soft drinks with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, whilst regular soft drinks have been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

In the new study Gardener and team examined the relationship between both diet and regular soft drink consumption and risk of stroke, myocardial infarction (or heart attack), and vascular death.

Study details

The researchers analysed data from 2,564 participants who took part in the Northern Manhattan Study, which was designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis.

Gardener and her team looked at how often individuals drank soft drinks – both diet and regular - and correlated the information with the incidence of vascular events over a ten-year period.

They found that those who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43% more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who drank none, after taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.

In contrast, they found that regular soft drink consumption and a more moderate intake of diet soft drinks – between one a month and six a week – did not appear to be linked to a higher risk of vascular events.

Source: Journal of General Internal Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2
“Diet Soft Drink Consumption is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study”
Authors: H. Gardener, T. Rundek, M. Markert, C.B. Wright, M.S.V. Elkind, R.L. Sacco

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4 comments (Comments are now closed)

Wake up Rachell

How ridiculous is a heart attack, keep positive and focus on the study results - 1470 people did not suffer heart disease - what is your explanation for that?

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Posted by James McDonald
12 February 2012 | 08h39

This is ridiculous!

Scientific research 101: Correlation does not equal causation. Maybe people who are prone to heart attacks for other reasons happen to drink more diet soda, rather than something in the diet soda causing the heart attacks- a far more likely scenario.

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Posted by Rachel
08 February 2012 | 05h03

43% health risk is too high to ignore

2nd attempt:-
If the diet soda used in Hannah Gardiner’s study contained aspartame, she need look no further than the 10% methanol in that aspartame for a probable cause of the heart attack risk seen in her study - Methanol in the human body breaks down into Formaldehyde which is a well known carcinogen -
The results of this clear and simple study showed; out of a general population of 2564 souls 1094 (43%) who consumed the diet drink were at a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke because of it, In other words if they had avoided something in the diet drink, 1094 people would be measurably healthier for it - Observation, Intuition and common Sense tells us that 43% is a very significant number. Until further study confirms what is causing the results, shouldn’t consumers be officially warned of this risk so they can choose whether or not to drink a product with a 43% suspected heart attack risk? Where is our Food Standards Agency here? What is their opinion on the study? What % risk do they consider reasonable? If aspartame is the culprit, It is present in most products labelled “diet” “sugar free” etc, there is therefore a much wider element of risk to consider. BSDA say we must be cautious! 43% risk factor?? How dangerous must a product be before they put public health first? - “well established ideas” are not on the menu here, it is no secret, if asked,people would choose to have direct protection from heart attacks.

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Posted by James McDonald
07 February 2012 | 18h34

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