Diet soda may not be the healthier alternative many had hoped. A new study suggests that the popular drinks may increase the risk for stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death.
"People who had diet soda every day experienced a 61% higher risk of vascular events than those who reported drinking no soda," lead investigator Hannah Gardener, ScD, an epidemiologist from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, told reporters attending a news conference here at the International Stroke Conference.
The researchers looked at more than 2500 people from the multiethnic Northern Manhattan Study. Participants were asked to report how much and what kind of soda they drank.
During an average follow-up of 9.3 years, 559 vascular events occurred, including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.
"This is an observational study and not a prospective randomized trial," Dr. Goldstein, from the Duke Stroke Center, in Durham, North Carolina, pointed out. "This is an association and not yet a proven causal relationship."
What should clinicians advise patients on the basis of the information we have today? Steven Greenberg, MD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, suggests that patients start by concentrating on a healthy diet and regular exercise. "Once the metabolic syndrome is under control and any risk of diabetes, then we can consider cutting back on soda consumption." Dr. Greenberg is the vice chair of the International Stroke Conference Committee, and during an interview he suggested that patients shouldn't rush to eliminate diet drinks.
"I do think this is a wake-up call, though," he said, "and we need to start paying closer attention."