Many women consume diet soft drinks thinking it is better for them that the sugary alternatives. But, the heart-breaking reality for those with a Diet Coke or Diet Dr Pepper habit is that the soft drinks are more unhealthy than previously thought and can even lead to heart disease.
New research conducted over a decade shows a great incidence of heart problems in post-menopausal women who regularly drink diet sodas than those who seldom partake. Those women who drank two or more diet sodas a day were 30 percent more likely to suffer from heart trouble than those who rarely drank beverages with artificial sweeteners. Nearly 9 percent of frequent soda drinkers suffered a serious heart event versus about 7 percent of women who rarely or never indulged and had a serious heart problem. The researchers also found that frequent diet soda drinkers were 50 percent more likely to die from heart disease.
The research findings were taken from an analysis of diet drink intake and health problems among the nearly 60,000 participants in the long-running U.S. Women’s Health Initiative, which is studying cardiovascular health trends among postmenopausal women. The average age of women in the diet drink portion of the study was 62.8, and they had no prior history of cardiovascular disease to be included in the analysis.
Study participants were asked to estimate how many artificially sweetened drinks (particularly diet soft drinks and low-calorie fruit beverages) they had consumed on average each day for the past three months. A drink was defined as a 12-ounce beverage.
The researchers compiled the data and then divided the women into four groups based on their overall diet drink consumption. The heaviest consumers had two or more diet drinks per day. The next group drank five to seven artificially sweetened beverages each week. The third group consumed one to four drinks per week. The last group included those who never or rarely indulged in diet drinks.
Approximately nine years later, the researchers checked to see which women had experienced heart-related problems, such as strokes; heart attacks; blood clots that threaten the limbs or organs; needed surgery to reopen clogged arteries; had heart failure; or died from heart trouble. They found that 8.5 percent of the women who drink two or more diet beverages a day had coronary problems. That compared with coronary issues experienced by 6.9 of those who consumed five to seven diet drinks each week, 6.8 percent who consumed one to four drinks a week, and 7.2 percent for the less frequent drinkers.
The researchers were quick to point out that their findings, which were presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, did not show that diet soft drinks created the heart problems. There was only an association between the two and other factors may really be the cause. For example, they did notice that the women who drank more diet beverages tended to be smokers, overweight, or had other risk factors.
However, other studies have shown a strong correlation between diet soft drinks and cardiovascular problems too. Earlier studies have suggested a link between heavy consumption of diet soft drinks and Type 2 diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome, which involves high blood pressure and abdominal obesity. While the actual cause-effect has yet to be proven, the heart-breaking truth for those who like to regularly consume diet soft drinks is they are not healthy.
By Dyanne Weiss