Death by Diet Soda?

Diet soda shown to increase risk of vascular events, stroke

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new study shows that diet soda drinkers may not be be better off opting for the zero- or low-calorie drinks compared to their sugar-swilling counterparts.

The report from Columbia University and Miller School of Medicine in Miami indicates diet soda drinkers have a 61 percent increased risk of stroke or vascular event than those who do not drink the beverages -- including those who drink sugar-based sodas.

The study followed 2,564 people in the large, multi-ethnic Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), a collaboration of investigators who, in 1993, began to examine stroke incidence and risk factors in a multi-ethnic urban population.

Researchers asked participants to report how much and what kind of soda they drank and grouped them into seven categories based on their answers:

  1. no soda 
  2. moderate regular soda only (between one per month and six per week) 
  3. daily regular soda (at least one per day) 
  4. moderate diet soda only 
  5. daily diet soda only 
  6. and two groups of people who drink both types: moderate diet and any regular, 7. and daily diet with any regular 

After a follow-up averaging 9.3 years, 559 vascular events, including ischemic (blood clot) and hemorrhagic stroke, occurred. After accounting for metabolic syndrome (a variety of factors such as waist size and hypertension that increase risk of vascular events), peripheral vascular disease and heart disease history, the increased risk of vascular event for diet-soda drinkers compared to others still persisted at 48 percent.

Dr. Tudor Jovin, an associate professor of neurology and medicine and director of the Stroke Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said individuals with a number of risk factors for stroke or heart disease -- such as hypertension, high blood sugar, smoking, obesity and high cholesterol, among others -- might want to reduce the amount of diet soda they consume based on the study's findings.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 11, 2011
Last Updated:
February 14, 2011