Does Diet Soda Cause Heart Attacks and Strokes?

Does Diet Soda Cause Heart Attacks and Strokes?

Scientists are telling the news media that drinking diet soda increases risk of “cardiovascular events.” But they are exaggerating their statistics.

Chances are your doctor recently got an email on how drinking diet soda can cause “cardiovascular events,” such as heart attack and stroke. As a result, you may be told that diet soda is deadly and you must stop drinking your favorite fizzy beverages right away.

Reported by Emedicine as its second most-emailed story among doctors, a feature article about drinking diet soda and having a heart attack or stroke says that diet soda drinkers have a 61 per cent greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

There is just one problem with these news reports. They are not based on what the study actually found.

The Northern Manhattan Diet Soda Study

The research to which the news reports refer is the Northern Manhattan Diet Soda Study. Researchers asked 2500 people in northern Manhattan how much diet soda and how much regular soda they drank each month. They then tracked their interviewees for an average of 9.3 years.

There is no doubt that more people who drank diet soda had heart attacks and strokes. The data analysis found that diet soda drinkers were between 3 and 112 per cent more likely than people who did not ever drink zero-calorie soft drinks to have a heart attack or stroke over approximately a 10 year period.

The study did not find, however, that drinking diet soft drinks definitely would cause an individual to have a heart attack or stroke. And the people included in this study were hardly representative of a normal population of healthy adults. Of the 2500 people in the study, 559 had a heart attack or stroke over a 10-year period.

This might be typical of a population of people over the age of 75, but it is hardly representative of the adult population of the United States as a whole. And perhaps 1 in 300 had a cardiovascular event that could be linked to diet soft drinks.

Study Finds that Sugar Is Apparently Protective

Another problem with the study findings is that it found that people who drink both diet soft drinks and at least one sugar-sweetened soft drink a month have what some news reports are calling a “tendency” to heart attack and stroke.

A “tendency” means that the data did not really find any relationship at all. The statistics can be interpreted as showing that it’s possible that drinking both kinds of soft drinks lowers risk of heart attack and stroke 4%, or possibly increases it as much as 212%. This is not a tendency. Statistically, this is not any kind of proof at all.

What Should Diet Soft Drink Drinkers Do?

The news that diet soft drinks cause heart attacks and strokes is exaggerated. The North Manhattan Study did look at a representative sample of races and ethnicities in part of New York City, but not a fair and representative of the rest of the USA, or the rest of the world, as a whole.

For now, don’t start swigging sugar-sweetened soda to replace your diet soft drinks, especially if you are diabetic. The damage to your health could be even worse. But consider just drinking water, decaffeinated coffee, and green tea, all beverages that are known to benefit your health.

Categories: Fitness, Health, Nutrition