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February 1, 2012
New Research Shows Diet Soft Drinks Cause Stroke, Heart Attacks and Vascular Death

Besides the fact that diet soda causes dehydration, weight gain, mineral depletion, diabetes and caffeine addiction, new research shows they're also responsible for an increased risk of vascular events such as stroke, heart attack, and vascular death.

Soft drinks account for more than a quarter of all drinks consumed in the United States.
That works out to at least one 12-ounce can per day for every man, woman and child.

The new study was conducted by Hannah Gardener and her colleagues from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and at Columbia University Medical Center. The research appears online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, published by Springer.

In the current climate of escalating obesity rates, artificially sweetened soft drinks are marketed as healthier alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages, due to their lack of calories. However, past research has shown very serious long-term health consequences due to highly toxic additives and artificial sweeteners such as sodium benzoate, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Gardener and team examined the relationship between both diet and regular soft drink consumption and risk of stroke, myocardial infarction (or heart attack), and vascular death. Data were analyzed from 2,564 participants in the NIH-funded Northern Manhattan Study, which was designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis in a multi-ethnic urban population. The researchers looked at how often individuals drank soft drinks -- diet and regular -- and the number of vascular events that occurred over a ten-year period.

They found that those who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43 percent more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who drank none, after taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Gardener concludes: "Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes. However, the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear. There is a need for further research before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the potential health consequences of diet soft drink consumption."

Scientists at Boston University’s medical school say people who drink more than one regular or diet soda each day develop the same risks for heart disease. Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, the lead researcher, says he found that among 9,000 middle-aged people, those who drank more than one soda per day had a 48 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome.

"Metabolic syndrome" is the term that refers to a group of symptoms that increase the risk for heart disease, such as a large waistline, and high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. The presence of three or more of the factors increases your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, health experts say.

And those people in Vasan's study who showed no signs of metabolic syndrome and quaffed more than one soda a day were 44 percent more likely to develop the cluster of conditions four years later, according to the article in the journal published by the American Heart Association.

What’s more, people who drank more than one soft drink a day were between 25 and 31 percent more likely to become extremely overweight, have larger waists, and develop higher levels of triglycerides and lower levels of "good" cholesterol than folks who drank only one daily soda, according to the findings.

Low-calorie diet soft drinking clearly do not prevent weight gain or obesity. Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans, and a second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar).

“Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,” said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. “They may be free of calories but not of consequences.”


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