The Dangers of Going “Diet”
The chemical used to sweeten diet sodas is called aspartame and it’s linked to an increased chance of heart disease.
The study, headed up by Dr. Ankur Vyas, was one of the most comprehensive of its type with nearly 60,000 women participating over nine years.
Known as the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, the research found that participants who drank two or more cans of diet soda a day were 30% more likely to have a cardiovascular event (e.g. heart attack) and 50% more likely to die of a heart-related disease than someone who drank none.
This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to the metabolic syndrome.
The results could prove to be significant to overall public health given the scale of the study and the fact that approximately one in five people in the United States consume diet drinks on a daily basis.
The 59,614 participants of the study were split into four groups by the researchers:
- two or more diet drinks a day
- five to seven diet drinks per week
- one to four diet drinks per week
- zero to three diet drinks per month
The health records for the past nine years of each woman was analyzed and the results were that, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, peripheral arterial disease, ischemic stroke and cardiovascular death, occurred in 8.5% of the women consuming two or more diet drinks a day compared to 6.9% in the five-to-seven diet drinks per week group; 6.8% in the one-to-four drinks per week group; and 7.2% in the zero-to-three per month group.
At a glance, the results didn’t appear to fit the theory that aspartame was one of the major causes of heart disease.
The records did however show that alongside the slightly higher rate of heart-related health issues, the women in the two or more a day group were, on average, significantly younger than the women in the other groups, meaning the diet sodas were causing health issues at an accelerated rate.
The women in this group also had the highest average BMIs, the rate of diabetes and highest average blood pressure.
Although the study was conducted on such a large scale, no official conclusion has been drawn but the initial signs are very worrying.
Based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship. This could have major public health implications.
Since the publication of the University of Iowa’s results, several more research projects have been commissioned in order to quantify the scale of the issues that aspartame can cause.
In the meantime however, our advice is to cut out soda drinks from your daily life and even if you do occasionally indulge; regular soda is actually better for you than the diet variety.
Many large companies pump vast sums of money into marketing ‘diet’ soda as a healthy drink – showing how much more concerned they are with lining their pockets than benefiting their consumers.