Heart attack: Diet drinks may not be a ‘healthy alternative’ when it comes to prevention

Strokes: Diet drinks can cause 'higher risk' says doctor

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Beverages labelled as “diet drinks” are often sold as healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. But their real impact on heart health is not fully known. These drinks are often artificially sweetened. However, research indicates that “they may not be the healthy alternative they are often claimed to be”.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has looked at the relationship between the consumption of diet drinks and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The research is based on data from more than 100,000 people.

Participants were assigned to one of three groups, depending on their consumption of artificially-sweetened drinks.

They could be non-consumers, low consumers, or high consumers.

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In the first three years of research, some participants had first incident cases of cardiovascular disease.

These included heart attacks, strokes, transient ischemic attacks, acute coronary syndrome, and angioplasty.

After the first three years, over 1,300 participants experienced first incident cases of cardiovascular disease.

Data suggested that people who were high-consumers of diet drinks “had higher risks of first incident cardiovascular disease”.

The study pointed out that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease was 32 percent higher among high-consumers of diet drinks.

This risk became 20 percent higher when switching diet drinks for regular sugary drinks.

The lead author in the study, Eloi Chazelas, said: “Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugary drinks.

“These data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labelling and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.”

Artificial sweeteners in diet drinks are synthetic substitutes for sugar.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these can be “attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet”.

The possible benefits of diet drinks could be controlling weight and blood sugar levels.

That is because their artificial sweeteners contain no calories and no carbohydrates.

However, as the authors of the study explained, this research only showed that there is an association between consuming diet drinks and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Artificial sweeteners in diet drinks are not a proven cause of heart attack.

“To establish a causal link, replication in other large-scale prospective cohorts and mechanistic investigations are needed,” the authors said.

For now, as the Mayo Clinic put it, “drinking a reasonable amount of diet soda a day, such as a can or two, isn’t likely to hurt you”.

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