In 2010, over 900 million cases of diet coke were sold in the United States alone. This of course does not include all the other diet soda brands and all the other countries the pop is shipped to around the globe. However, what it adds up to is a lot of diet soda consumption. If you like to indulge in diet soda on a regular basis you might want to keep reading; a new study says you could be putting yourself at a higher risk for heart attack.
Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York determined that drinking diet soft drinks on a daily basis might increase your chances of heart attack, stroke and even vascular death.
Just over 2,500 people took part in the study which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Those who drank diet soda daily were 43 per cent more likely to experience a vascular episode than those who didn’t consume diet pop. People who drank one a month or 6 every week did not seem to increase their risk.
The findings have sparked a lot of controversy. Beverage companies and even some nutritional experts argue that it may show a correlation between diet soda and vascular issues, but the study does not explain how or why this happens. The American Beverage Association points out that for year’s medical organizations have in fact been pushing the consumption of diet soda over regular soda as a weight management tool for people who are already at a high risk for vascular problems, heart attack or stroke.
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The team of researchers at the University Of Miami Miller School of Medicine don’t dispute the fact that there are unanswered questions. They say they realize their study is not conclusive and more probing is needed to determine exactly why the body is responding to the diet soda the way it is. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, part of the problem with diet soda is that it can stimulate the craving for other sweet tasting food. This leads many diet pop drinkers to eat sugary food, gain weight and then place themselves in a category of higher risk for vascular disease. Researchers at Harvard say there is also some debate that diet drinks with artificial sweetener, uncouple sweetness and energy thus confusing the human brain. The brain responds to sweetness by wanting to eat more, followed by signals to slow down and stop eating. The argument is that artificial sweeteners confuse these feedback loops that involve the brain, stomach, nerves and hormones. If and when this happens it could confuse the body about how many calories are being taken in. Obesity can raise the risk of a heart attack and potentially a stroke, too.
This is not the first time that diet soda has been linked to potential heart attacks and stroke. Back in 2007 a study was conducted in Boston that focused on diet soda consumption and it came to a conclusion similar to the Miami/New York findings. It showed an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of factors that boost the chance of having a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. The study looked at 9,000 individuals; both women and men of middle age. The incidence of vascular problems was increased substantially.
This study seemed to point at weight gain as a factor. Study subjects who drank one or more sodas a day; regular or diet, had a 31 per cent higher risk of becoming obese, a 30 per cent increased risk of adding on belly fat, and a 25 per cent higher risk of developing high blood sugar.
Here in Canada soft drink consumption appears to be declining; however we are still drinking well over 80 litres each per year. Given the latest study on diet soda consumption, and the unanswered questions, doctors and scientists are pushing for more research so that one day they can better guide consumers with the hopes of heart attack risk declines in years to come.