Diet Sodas: Fewer Calories, But More StrokesMarch 15, 2011
Last month we reported on the dangers of many artificial sweeteners. Now a report links diet sodas to a 61% increase in strokes and heart attacks.
The American Stroke Association held their International Stroke Conference a few weeks ago, where researchers presented the findings of a landmark study on diet drinks. They followed more than 2,500 New Yorkers for nine or more years, and found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, including heart attack and stroke.
As Christopher Wanjek, author of Bad Medicine, noted, “You’re drinking copious amounts of phosphoric acid, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and some laboratory-crafted chemical that tricks your brain into perceiving the sensation of sweet….The proliferation of diet soda cuts to the core of what’s wrong with the Western diet. The Western approach is to remove the most obvious dangers from an unhealthy habit—in this case, removing the 12 teaspoons of sugar per can of fizzy water laced with acids, colors, and flavors of uncertain origin—so that we can continue that habit in denial of other dangers.”
Despite the study’s findings, the researchers aren’t ready to tell consumers to skip diet sodas! The report’s lead author, Hannah Gardener—an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine—said, “I don’t think that anyone should be changing their behaviors based on one study. Hopefully this will motivate other researchers to do more studies.”
Gardener and her colleagues accounted for risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels before pointing the finger more squarely at diet drinks. What isn’t yet clear is which specific ingredient or ingredients in diet sodas may be causing the increased health risk. It is also possible that people who drink diet sodas are replacing those saved sugar calories with other unhealthy choices, Gardener said.
Until more data is in, anyone for green tea, or even, possibly, water?