Drinking two or more diet drinks a day may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, in healthy postmenopausal women, based on a brand new University of Iowa study.

This is among the greatest studies on this particular topic, as well as findings are consistent with some previous data, particularly those linking diet beverages to the metabolic syndrome.

About one in five people in the U.S. have diet drinks on a given day, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-10). But there’s a comparative dearth of information about the cardiovascular health consequences of diet drinks.

Predicated on self-reported consumption of diet drinks over a three-month period, the researchers split the 59,614 study participants into four eating groups: two or more diet drinks a day, five to seven diet beverages per week, one to four diet drinks per week, and zero to three diet beverages per month. Each drink was defined as the equivalent of a 12-oz beverage and contained both diet sodas and diet fruit drinks.

After an average follow up of 8.7 years, the main outcome—defined a coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization process, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and cardiovascular passing—happened 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 remained even after researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic features and other cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy consumption, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened drink consumption. On average, girls who have two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to smoke, and having a higher prevalence of diabetes, increased blood pressure, and increased body mass index.

The association between diet drinks and cardiovascular difficulties raises more questions than it answers, and ought to stimulate further research.

An organization found that these issues are caused by diet drinks,  adding that there may be a few other factors about individuals who drink more diet drinks that could explain the link.

It’s too soon to tell individuals to change their behavior based on this particular study; yet, based on these and other findings we have a duty to do more research to see what’s happening and further define the relationship if one actually exists. This might have important public health consequences.

Future research could include clinical studies, animal models, and even molecular and pharmacologic evaluations to begin to explain what, if any, direct role diet beverages play in heart health.

Even if it’s not true, I just don’t feel like drinking a diet coke right now 🙂

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