Drinking Diet Soda Doubles Your Risk of Stroke

In Featured Article, Health Warning, Heart and Cardiovascular, Stroke

Diet soda is no better for your health than the regular kind. In fact, the most recent research says it may well actually pose serious risks to your health.

For almost two decades you’ve been told that the diet option has to be the smarter option. And the American Beverage Association (ABA) tells you that diet soda is safe and healthy.

But a controversial new study is showing that diet soda is just as risky as the regular version. In fact, it reveals that diet soda drinkers increase their risk of stroke by a whopping 61 percent!

Can’t believe it’s true? Join us as we review the study… gather the facts… and find out what the experts are saying.

Making the Same Mistake Twice

It’s not the first time that a heavily-marketed, “healthy” alternative has turned out to cause serious health problems.

In the 1970s, the government released guidelines claiming that dietary fat was a big contributor to weight gain and all the related health problems that come with it.

So they told the public to cut their fat intake, launching a low-fat craze. One that generated billions in low-fat food products.

And suddenly Americans were substituting natural, old-fashioned fat for chemical by-products.

Fast forward 40 years and dozens of scientists now believe that the low-fat switch is the direct cause of today’s obesity epidemic. You can read all about that in our article “The True Path to Lasting Weight Loss” here.

Now, brand new research shows the same may also be true of sugar-free diet products.

Science Breaks Down Soda Myth

The new study is headed by Dr. Hannah Gardner. She leads research for the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami. She’s published findings that are surprising the scientific community.

She shared her findings with a room full of experts at the 2011 American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, California.

And those experts are already celebrating her findings.

“Our results suggest that diet soda may not be [a good] substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages,” Dr. Gardner said. “We saw a significant increased risk among those who drank diet soda daily.”

Dr. Gardner looked at information gathered on 2,564 New Yorkers over nine years. During that time, each participant was given regular physicals. Their checkups included blood pressure measurements and blood tests for cholesterol.

The study took into account accepted heart risk factors including lifestyle choices… diet… and exercise. And whether or not they smoked or drank alcohol.

It also focused on how much soda they drank. And the type of soda they drank.

Dr. Gardner reviewed all those stats against heart-related incidents. Across all of that information one fact was clear… there was a 61 percent higher incidence of heart disease in people who drank soda each day than in those who drank no soda at all. It made no difference whether the soda was diet or regular.

Even after eliminating all other accepted risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol… diet or regular soda drinkers still had a 48 percent higher rate of heart disease.

Dr. Gardner knows that the results are shocking. Regular soda impacts health in plenty of ways. Now, devoted soda drinkers will have to accept that the diet version seems to offer the same serious risks.

“It’s reasonable to have doubts,” says Dr. Gardner. “But diet soda drinkers need to stay tuned.”

So how is it that diet soda still increases your risk for heart disease?

Until now we’ve been told that the sugar in soda causes our weight to balloon and our blood sugar to spike. Both are factors in developing diabetes and heart disease.

But diet soda has been marketed as sugar free. And, in theory, free of sugar-related health risks.

Diet soda may not contain sugar… But it does contain artificial sweeteners that are cooked up in a lab… and create complex hormonal reactions that our bodies were never designed to process.

Evidence Builds Against Diet Sodas

Dr. Gardner’s results precisely mirror findings from a similar study done four years earlier.

This study appeared in Circulation in January 2007. That’s the official journal of the American Heart Association. You can review that study here.

The study was part of the Framingham Heart Study. It was headed up by Dr. Ravi Dhingra. He’s a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School and a practicing M.D.

His study clearly linked diet soda to metabolic syndrome, which is a big factor in developing heart disease.

“In those who drink soft drinks daily, there was increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome,” said Dr. Dhingra.

The study looked at 9,000 people over four years. Researchers found that people who drank one or more soda drinks each day had a 50 percent higher incidence of metabolic syndrome.

But that wasn’t the most significant thing about the study. It was the discovery that diet soda was just as risky.

“We were struck by the fact that it didn’t matter whether it was a diet or regular soda,” says co-author Dr. Ramachandran Vasan. “The association with increased risk was present.”

Dr. Vasan is a practicing M.D. He’s also a professor and lead researcher at Boston University School of Medicine.

Both researchers were surprised by this finding. It didn’t seem to make sense.

So they looked at a smaller group of participants. For this study they focused only on people drinking diet soda. And they found that this specific group “had a 50 – 60 percent increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.”

This is almost exactly what the new 2011 study found.

The authors couldn’t explain why diet soda would also increase risk of metabolic syndrome. But their conclusions were very clear.

“If you are drinking soft drinks each day, you’re increasing your risk of developing heart disease,” said Dr. Dhingra.

Shutting Out the 2007 Study

The American Beverage Association (ABA) was quick to defend diet sodas.

“Diet soft drinks are a good option for those looking to cut calories in their beverages,” said Susan Neely. She was the president and CEO of the ABA.

And she was quick to dismiss the study.

“It defies common sense to assert a link between soft drinks and increased risk of heart disease,” she said.

Oddly… the American Heart Association (AHA) later issued a statement about the Circulation report.

The AHA noted that the report “does not show that soft drinks cause risk factors for heart disease.” The AHA offered a vague explanation for the results… that other factors might explain the increased risk of heart disease.

And the AHA and ABA were once more on the same page.

“The AHA acknowledges that the report does not show that soft drinks cause an increased risk of heart disease,” said Neely. “It recognizes that diet soft drinks are a good option for those looking to cut calories in their beverages. We appreciate the AHA clearing up any confusion surrounding this report.”

And that study was quietly shelved away and forgotten. Until now.

Experts Weigh In

This new study is gathering plenty of support from experts in the field. Already several scientists have reviewed the 2011 study and support its findings.

“I first thought the correlation had to be accidental,” says Dr. Patrick Lyden. He’s the chief of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

But his early doubts faded after he read and re-read the study. Now he’s convinced the science – and findings – are solid. And that soda drinkers should take it as wake-up call.

He says that he’s already telling his patients to play it safe and skip soda altogether.

Dr. Nehal M. Mehta is the director of cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s also reviewed the study. He feels that it’s further evidence that diet soda poses plenty of risks.

He points out that this new study supports the 2007 findings from the Circulation study.

Many other experts support these new findings.

Take Dr. Tudor Jovin. He’s the director of the Stroke Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

As surprising as the results are… he’s convinced they should be taken seriously. Especially by people with a history of heart problems.

“People with risk factors for vascular disease want to reduce the amount of diet soda they consume,” says Dr. Jovin.

So what can you do? The truth is… there’s only one way to protect your health and that of your family. Cut out soft drinks all together. At the very least, drastically reduce your intake to less than one eight-ounce glass a day.

Your health depends on what you eat and drink. And there are many ways to ensure that your diet supports good health and longevity.

We’ve just published an extensive report on how to improve your heart health, lose weight, and get in shape.

It’s filled with expert advice, the most recent research, and guidance on how to develop a diet plan that improves health and fitness. For more information, read on here.

To your health,
Ian's signature
Ian Robinson,
Managing Editor,
NHD “Health Watch”