Diet Soda & Heart Health Risks | Jon Barron's Blog

Date: 03/03/2011    Written by: Beth Levine

Diet Soda Dangers

Diet Soda Dangers

February is American Heart Month, and for the fourth year now, Diet Coke is supporting the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's The Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness and funds for women's heart health education and research.  Kind of ironic, though, since drinking diet soda has recently been identified as a possible risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.

The study that found the connection, performed by scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, took place over the course of nine years and involved more than 2,500 participants.  It was part of the larger Northern Manhattan Study, which investigates stroke and its risk factors through Columbia University in New York.  Approximately two-thirds of the volunteers were women, and their average age was 69.

Participants responded to a questionnaire about what they typically eat and drink and their exercise habits.  They were also provided with physical exams.  The researchers used this information to gather data for analysis as well as to control for other cardiovascular risk factors such as age, gender, physical activity levels, smoking, alcohol use, caloric intake, and pre-existing heart disease.

While the researchers didn't find any evidence of elevated cardiovascular disease risk among those who drink regular soda frequently (they weren't looking for diabetes), the subjects who reported having diet soda on a daily basis face a 48 percent higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack compared with the people who rarely or never drink it.  During the period of the study, 212 of the volunteers had strokes, 149 had heart attacks, and 338 died from cardiovascular illness. It is important to note that the researchers lacked data on the types of diet drinks consumed, preventing analysis of whether different diet sweeteners (aspartame, saccharine, sucralose) might have produced varying results -- although aspartame is far and away the dominant artificial sweetener used in diet sodas.

This is not the first study to establish a connection between soft drinks and disease.  Previous research has linked both regular and diet soda to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, both of which can elevate the incidence of heart attacks and stroke.  Metabolic syndrome is a grouping of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that includes significant waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids, and excessive fasting glucose levels.  Numerous trials through the past decade have found that drinking regular soda promotes both weight gain and a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is unsurprising, given the amount of sugar it contains.  But other studies have also shown a link between diet soda and diabetes.

In 2008, research that took place at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis found that those who drink a can or more of diet soda every day had a 34 percent higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.  Taking place over a period of nine years, this study focused on the health status and eating habits of 9,500 men and women between the ages of 45 and 64.  Other factors were found to increase the chances of developing metabolic syndrome too -- those who frequently ate refined grains and fried foods had an 18 percent higher risk, and the participants who indulged in red meat most often had a 25 percent higher risk.  But none of these bad health habits came close to the numbers for drinking diet soda, with its 34 percent increased risk.

More studies need to be done to determine exactly why diet soda would potentially cause metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart attack, or stroke.  But one clue was found in research at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.  Scientists there noticed that rats that were fed saccharin-sweetened yogurt ate larger portions and gained more weight than rats that were consuming sugar-sweetened yogurt.  Although the majority of diet sodas contain aspartame instead of saccharine, it's possible that the two sweeteners affect the body the same way and cause people to overeat.

So put down that can and take the two-liter bottles right out of your shopping cart.  For your health, you'll need to quench your thirst another way.

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    Submitted by Brenda on
    March 22, 2011 - 9:21am

    This makes me wonder what other affects diet soda can have. One of my mom's friends had cancer and switched her whole diet to organic foods except for one thing...She continued to drink diet soda everyday. Her cancer came back twice, until she finally lost her battle and passed away. I remember thinking back then that the diet soda had to be working against her and that she was going to have a hard time getting rid of her cancer (breast cancer) if she was drinking diet soda everyday. I think she herself thought that she was doing the right thing by eating all organic foods and that one soda would not harm her health in anyway. May she rest in peace.

    Submitted by John D'hondt on
    March 23, 2011 - 10:08am

    Just read your article about diet coke and I may have a small contribution to make. We are small farmers in Ireland and for years we had enormous problems with rats eating many of our crops. Last year we got a tip from a Canadian that rats can be made sick by giving them coke to drink and knowing that diet coke is even worse we put out little tins of this in the summer. We have not seen or caught a rat in our regular traps for many weeks now.
    About a gallon of diet coke wiped out a thriving rat population of many hundreds in a few months. So the stuff does have it's uses.

    Submitted by rex4 on
    April 26, 2011 - 6:53pm

    Read comments by UM & PU and see that it affects your age group also. and comments at bottom should be convincer.

    Submitted by rex4 on
    April 26, 2011 - 6:55pm

    convincing evidence

    Submitted by Emmi on
    May 12, 2011 - 5:52am

    Diet soda is abig danger for life and creates Heart Disease .....We know the coke diet soda effect with mentos!!!

    Submitted by Guest on
    June 24, 2011 - 3:48am

    As far as I know sodas in general can cause problems to health so I try to avoid them as much as I can. It's not the same with diet foods though, I consider them more healthy than the rest of the foods, I am thinking about getting a diet delivery service since I don't have much time to shop for diet foods.

    Submitted by healthEfairy on
    September 13, 2011 - 8:27am

    Exactly what ARE diet foods?
    For example, Nutrisystem is diet food but is certainly not healthy.

    Submitted by Sera on
    July 14, 2011 - 3:47pm

    "rats can be made sick by giving them coke to drink and knowing that diet coke is even worse we put out little tins of this in the summer. We have not seen or caught a rat in our regular traps for many weeks now.".... Wow I never knew this. Thanks for sharing. 

    Submitted by tisa snapback hats on
    May 11, 2012 - 3:58am

    Your Blog is very good, I like it! Thank you for you sharing!Your blog is really helps for my search and i really like it.

    Submitted by evangelina aguilar on
    February 7, 2013 - 8:08am

    there is a good youtube documentary on aspartame, and the its dangers.. is awful that these companies still putting it on the drinks, even after studies have shown aspartame is the cause of brain tumors, of MS, and many other dis-eases.. it is up to the consumer to get educated, and read, read read, .. because these companies dont care about health or anything but only about making money....... i drink water lemon with a bit of non aluminum baking soda, if i am craving carbonated water.. or drinks.. make sure you drink distilled water, otherwise you are drinking tons of chlorine and flouride, which are also poison ...
    much love and healing to everyone Angelina

    Submitted by chromeshadow on
    March 1, 2013 - 7:12am

    I disagree for the reason that minerals are very important in our body systems (electrolytes and mineral salts help to convey electrical currents in the body) Distilled water is processed by vaporizing water in one chamber and then condensing it in a separate chamber. This removes most minerals, organisms and chemicals, chemicals that have a higher boiling point than water however- like VOC xylene- will not be removed by distillation. There is also some concern that certain volatile organic chemicals will vaporize and re-condense into the second chamber. Therefore distillation should be preceded by solid carbon filtration.Recap: distilled water contains no chemicals and takes out everything except volatile chemicals. Regular consumption of of distilled water, especially by somebody who may already be deficient, can leach the body and cause mineral deficiencies. The best choice is to use a combination of reverse osmosis and a solid carbon block filter. Also cooking your food in demineralized water will pull minerals from the food. Reverse Osmosis units also remove minerals- so from the mineral standpoint mineral rich foods need to be consumed to replace lost nutrients such as magnesium which has been proven to reduce heart disease. Source: STAYING HEALTHY WITH NUTRITION, Elson M. Haas, M.D. with Buck Levin, PhD, RD Remember : Anything that nourishes can heal but among all substances -perhaps all substances of any kind -water is unsurpassed in its ability to heal. Protect our water.

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