A research suggests that healthy postmenopausal women who drink two or more diet drinks a day may be more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems.
The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session, found that compared to women who never or only rarely consumed diet drinks, those who consumed two or more a day were 30 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease. Researchers analyzed diet drink intake and cardiovascular risk factors from 59,614 participants in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, making this the largest study to look at the relationship between diet drink consumption, cardiac events and death.
The findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that ups the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. A person is thought to have metabolic syndrome if he or she has a large waist circumference plus two or more of the following: high blood triglycerides (blood fat), high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood glucose and low HDL (good) cholesterol.
Information on women's consumption of diet drinks was obtained through a questionnaire that asked them to report their diet drink consumption habits over the previous three months. This information was assessed at follow-up year three of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Each drink was defined as the equivalent of a 12-ounce beverage and included both diet sodas and diet fruit drinks. The researchers divided the women 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.
After nearly 9 years of follow-up, the primary outcome -- a composite of 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.
The association persisted even after researchers adjusted for other cardiovascular risk factors including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sugar-sweetened beverage intake. Women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and higher body mass index.
The researchers say the association between diet drinks and cardiovascular problems raises more questions than it answers, and should stimulate further research.
This study found only an association; it didn’t reveal that diet drinks cause these problems.
Previous studies have found artificially sweetened drinks to be associated with weight gain in adults and teens, and seem to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, which makes both diabetes and heart disease more likely.
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