If you’re watching your weight to start the new year you might be tempted to opt for anything labeled “diet.” As it turns out, diet soda might not be the best choice if you actually care about your health, as a new study warns that indulging in low-calorie beverages packed with sugar substitutes could put you in an early grave.
The study, which was published in the journal Stroke, examined the long-term health of over 80,000 women who volunteered to have health check-ins decades after the fact. The data relied on self-reported consumption of what the scientists call ASB, or “artificially sweetened beverages.”
Diet sodas are able to boast about being low in calories thanks to the substitution of sugar for artificial sweeteners. Doctors have long warned of the potential risks of these substances, but the draw of low-calorie drinks has led many to make them a part of their daily routine.
What the team discovered was that those who admitted to drinking multiple ASBs per day on average saw dramatic increases in stroke and heart attack over the years. The researchers say that, when compared to those who did not drink artificial sweeteners, women who were regular drinkers had a 23 percent higher chance of stroke and a 31 percent higher chance of stroke due specifically to a blocked artery. They also had a 29 percent higher chance of heart attack. Overall mortality among those who regularly enjoyed diet drinks rose by 16 percent.
“Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet,’’ lead author Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani said in a statement. “Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”
Unfortunately, the study wasn’t able to break down what kind of artificial sweeteners were being consumed. The data didn’t include that information, so it’s difficult to say whether all artificial sweeteners are risky or if some, like aspartame, are more dangerous than others.