New study explains the deadly link between diet sodas and cardiovascular disease
Drinking one or two diet beverages per day has been linked to a whole host of potentially lethal health issues, according to a new and concerning study.
Joint research from the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association says that artificially-sweetened drinks lead to an increased risk of clot-based strokes, heart attacks and early death in women over 50, with the most at risk being obese women, African-American women and women with no prior history of heart disease or diabetes.
The results of this study come after the ASA surveyed more than 80,000 women participating in the Women's Health Initiative (a long-term national study), asking them how often they had consumed a 12-ounce diet beverage over the last three months.
Lead study author Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, wanted to look in detail as to the wider effects of diet beverages, confirming the women involved had their health outcomes tracked for a period of 11.9 years.
"Previous studies have focused on the bigger picture of cardiovascular disease. Our study focused on the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke and its subtypes, one of which was small-vessel blockage. The other interesting thing about our study is that we looked at who is more vulnerable."
After correcting and controlling for lifestyle factors, the study brought up some fascinating results: on average, women who consumed two such beverages a day were 31 percent more likely to have a clot-based stroke, 29 percent more likely to suffer heart disease and 16 more likely to suffer an early death than women who had one or fewer such drink a day.
The analysis then turned its attention to women who had no prior risk of diabetes or heart disease - key risk factors for a stroke. Mossavar-Rahmani said that those risks also rose dramatically if the women were also obese or African-American.
"Women who, at the onset of our study, didn't have any heart disease or diabetes and were obese, were twice as likely to have a clot-based or ischemic stroke... African-American women without a previous history of heart or diabetes were about four times as likely to have a clot-based stroke."
While women of normal weight or were overweight didn't see their stroke risk increase, caucasian women didn't suffer from the same stroke risks. "In white women, the risks were different. They were more 1.3 percent as likely [sic] to have coronary heart disease," Mossavar-Rahmani explained.
Despite the results of this study, health experts have been quick to stress that the study only shows an association between diet sodas and adverse health effects. "Postmenopausal women tend to have higher risk for vascular disease because they are lacking the protective effects of natural hormones," explained North Carolina cardiologist Dr. Kevin Campbell.
Dr. Keri Peterson, medical advisor for the Calorie Control Council (which represents the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry), added there could be other health issues that convinced women to take up diet beverages. "This association may also be contributed to by rising blood pressure and sugars that were not yet diagnosed as hypertension or diabetes but warranted weight loss," she explained.
The study from the ASA looked at the various types of ischemic stroke, which doctors often use for deciding which treatment and medication is used for patients.
It found that small artery occlusion, one of the more common types of stroke, was 2.5 times more likely in women who were heavy consumers of diet sodas, but with no heart disease or diabetes. This correlation was found regardless of race or weight.