Is that right? Drinking diet soda increases stroke risk?
Does drinking diet soda increase your risk of stroke?
Perhaps. But we don't really know for sure.
I don't typically report on research that hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But the provocative study about diet soda and stroke risk presented this week at the American Heart Association's and American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles has generated enough ink and confusion to warrant some attention here.
In short, the smallish study conducted by a consortium of stroke researchers found that people who drank diet soda daily had a 61-percent increased risk of suffering ischemic stroke (the kind caused by a blockage in a blood vessel), heart attack and vascular-related deaths than those who drank no soda at all.
That association held after researchers controlled the data for age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking, physical activity and alcohol consumption and for metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease and cardiac disease history.
That's a scary figure. But as the press release announcing the study notes, the research had some shortcomings, not the least of which was that soda consumption was self-reported, didn't include details about what kinds of diet soda were consumed, and was gathered just once, at the research period's outset. (A parallel study involving sodium intake and stroke risk, with similar shortcomings, found stroke risk increased as sodium intake rose.) Not knowing more details about the beverages consumed prevented teasing out whether some ingredient such as coloring or sweeteners may play a key role in increasing stroke risk.
The sample size (2,564 people) was pretty small for major conclusions to be drawn from these findings. The authors acknowledge that their findings need to be replicated by future research before a relationship between diet soda intake and stroke risk can be established.
Still, if you're a big diet-soda drinker, it might be worth asking yourself how much of the stuff you really need. I don't drink it (or regular soda) myself, but I don't wag fingers at those who do. But I know people who guzzle diet sodas all day long, feeling free to do so because it adds no calories to their diets. As with anything, moderation may be in order.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
| February 11, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Cardiovascular Health, Is That Right?, Nutrition and Fitness, Sodium, Strokes
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