Do you believe that drinking diet soda can help cut calories and ultimately help you lose weight? Unfortunately, studies do not confirm this. One study found that drinking two or more artificially sweetened beverages a day is linked to an increased risk of early death, heart attacks, and clot-based strokes in women over 50.
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association found these risks to be highest in women who are obese or African American, with no history of heart disease or diabetes.
"This is another confirmatory study showing a relationship between artificially sweetened beverages and vascular risks. While we cannot show causation, this is a yellow flag to pay attention to these findings," said American Academy of Neurology President, Dr. Ralph Sacco.
More than 80,000 postmenopausal American women participated in the study. They were asked how often they drank one 12-fluid-ounce serving of a diet beverage over the previous three months.
Compared to women who drank diet beverages less than a once a week or not at all, researchers found that women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened drinks each day were 16% more likely to die from any cause. They also found these women were 31% more likely to have a clot-based stroke and 29% more likely to have heart disease.
Researchers did not find women of normal weight or overweight (with a body mass index between 25 and 30) more likely to experience stroke.
Race also played a role in health risks.
"African-American women without a previous history of heart or diabetes were about four times as likely to have a clot-based stroke," said lead study author Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “In white women, the risks were different. They were 1.3 times as likely to have coronary heart disease."
These findings reinforce the potential dangers of drinking diet sodas on a regular basis. Previous studies have found a link between diet beverages and stroke, dementia, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
Researchers say in order to prevent the potentially harmful side effects of diet sodas, people should drink more water and natural beverages, such as unsweetened herbal teas.