A new study of 2,500 New Yorkers over a period of nine years shows that diet soda drinkers have a 61 percent higher risk for heart attack and stroke compared to those who avoided diet drinks altogether.
The study was done by a team led by Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Gardener presented the results Wednesday at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles, California.
Predictably, Gardener expressed her feeling that more studies need to be done. “I think diet soda drinkers need to stay tuned,” Gardener said.
The research followed 2,564 Manhattan residents who were asked about their diets, exercise, and cigarette and alcohol consumption. The survey members were given physical check-ups to get a baseline measurement to asses their risk for heart attacks and stroke.
Gardener found the risk was correlated to diet sodas even when smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure were factored in. There was no correlation to drinkers of regular soda.
The researchers wanted to play it safe, so they admitted the remote possibility that something the survey members ate with the diet soda could also be the problem. The researchers followed the diets of the participants and knew their calorie intakes, so this seems unlikely there was some mystery food that is the real culprit.
Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, director of inflammatory risk cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said there may be something in diet soda that leads to vascular problems. This is the second study to link diet soda to heart attack and stroke, he said. There were also animal studies that indicated the caramel coloring was also linked to vascular problems, he added.
Dr. Tudor Jovin, an associate professor of neurology and medicine and director of the Stroke Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center cautions, “People with a lot of risk factors for vascular disease, might want to reduce the amount of diet soda they consume,” Jovin said. “Those risk factors would include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, a family history of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and a history of cardiovascular events.”
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