Diet Soda May Up Heart Risks, Study Finds

Diet Sodas, long believed to be safer to physical health than their sugary counterparts, are making headlines for their possible connection to <"">heart and vascular problems.

According to MSNBC, an emerging study suggests diet soda health risks can impact heart and brain health. The study, just presented at the American Stroke Association’s (ASA) International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles, California, discussed how the research team followed over 2,500 New Yorkers for at least nine years, said MSNBC. The research revealed that some heart Attack risks were connected to consuming diet soda; and diet soda stroke risks were documented, as well, noted MSNBC.

“People who had diet soda every day experienced a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who reported drinking no soda,” said lead investigator Dr Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, speaking to reporters attending a news conference at the ASA event, quoted HeartWire Over the average 9.3 year follow-up, 559 participants experienced vascular events, including ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes, said HeartWire.

Despite the findings, the researchers say more studies are needed on Diet Soda risks, and do not recommend that consumer give up on the diet drinks just yet, said MSNBC, citing Gardener. “I think diet soda drinkers need to stay tuned,” Gardener 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,” quoted MSNBC.

The team followed 2,564 north Manhattan residents in what HeartWire described as a multi-ethnic cohort study. The team looked at eating and exercise habits and cigarette and alcohol consumption, said MSNBC. After accounting for “metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, and cardiac disease history,” the increased risk for vascular events remained, said HeartWire. The study also revealed that no increased risk for these events existed among people who drink regular soda, noted MSNBC.

Whether the issue is with the beverage or behaviors remains to be seen. Gardener pointed out that there is the possibility that diet soda drinkers could be replacing saved calories with unhealthy food choices, wrote MSNBC. Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, director of inflammatory risk cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania, agrees, saying that while the researchers know total calories participants consumed, they did not study unhealthy eating habits, reported MSNBC.

“Maybe along with the diet soda, people are grabbing a Big Mac and a large fries,” Mehta said. “Soda may not be the villain. It may be the other things people consume in association with diet soda. After all, what goes better with pizza or fries than a soda?” quoted MSNBC. Still, there could be a component of diet soda that is to blame, said Mehta, who added that a prior study found that consumption of diet soda was linked to increased risks for metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for vascular problems, said MSNBC. For instance, the caramel coloring used in some diet sodas has been linked to vascular problems, said Mehta.

“People with a lot of risk factors for vascular disease, might want to reduce the amount of diet soda they consume,” said Dr. Tudor Jovin, an associate professor of neurology and medicine and director of the Stroke Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “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,” quoted MSNBC.

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