One of the largest studies to date has categorically associated consumption of diet drinks to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and decreased mortality rate. Diet drink consumption in the United States is high with one in five people in the U.S. consuming diet drinks on a given day, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2010). The statistics analyzing 59,614 post menopausal women in a Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, reflect a 30% increase in a cardiovascular event and 50% increased risk of death from a related event such as stroke.
“Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome,” said Ankur Vyas, M.D., fellow, Cardiovascular Diseases, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the lead investigator of the study. “We were interested in this research because there was a relative lack of data about diet drinks and cardiovascular outcomes and mortality.”
Each participant was requested to complete a questionnaire addressing the diet drink consumption over the previous three month, with a follow up after the initial questionnaire. Each drink was defined as the equivalent of a 12-ounce beverage and included both diet sodas and diet fruit drinks.
The women were divided into four consumption groups: two or more diet drinks a day, five to seven diet drinks per week, one to four diet drinks per week, and zero to three diet drinks per month. The results of the study reflect that a combination of health events such as incident coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular death occurred in 8.5 percent of the women consuming two or more diet drinks a day compared to 6.9 percent in the five-to-seven diet drinks per week group; 6.8 percent in the one-to-four drinks per week group; and 7.2 percent in the zero-to-three per month group.
Dr. Vyas defined the concern regarding the diet drink association: “We only found an association, so we can’t say that diet drinks cause these problems. “It’s too soon to tell people to change their behavior based on this study; however, based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship, if one truly exists,” he adds. “This could have major public health implications.”
American College of Cardiology. “Too many diet drinks may spell heart trouble for older women, study suggests”