Diet Sodas

The Diet Beverage and Stroke Connection

Over the years, more and more health risks are being associated with soda consumption, and the list grows longer all the time. Everything from diabetes, obesity and COPD to heart disease, asthma and tooth decay have been connected to these sugary drinks. Many doctors warn their patients against drinking soda frequently, and some legislators have even tried taxing soda drinkers or limiting the size of drinks a restaurant can offer as a way to force them to cut down.

Of course, soda industry giants dismiss the studies linking their products to health problems and conduct skewed studies of their own to “prove” the opposition research wrong, overblown, or as nothing more than media hype. But just looking at the ingredients and nutrition statements on their packages shows nothing beneficial but plenty of sugar, sodium, calories and potentially harmful additives like high fructose corn syrup.

A separate spotlight has been focused on the health risks of diet beverages. As a way to combat weight gain and other health issues caused by sugary drinks, many people turn to diet soda without considering the risks posed by artificial sweeteners (as well as the additional sodium). Now a new study has connected all diet beverages to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and early death in women over 50, according to the American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association. The artificially sweetened beverages considered in the study included not just diet soda, but also artificially sweetened teas, fruit juices and other such drinks.

This isn’t the first time that diet drinks have been connected with serious health issues. In the past, dementia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and more—even obesity, the very thing that drives some people to switch to diet drinks—have been linked to diet beverages. Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to kill important gut microbiota and contribute to metabolic dysfunction. In addition, Boston University researchers found that the risk of metabolic syndrome was 50 percent higher in people who drink as little as one or more diet or non-diet sodas daily.

The latest study connecting diet beverages to stroke and heart disease covered a span of 11.9 years and focused on over 81,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. It concluded that those with the highest consumption of artificially sweetened beverages—two or more per day—showed a significantly increased risk of stroke, heart disease and death. The highest risk factors were found in obese women as well as those without any history of diabetes or heart disease. Regular drinkers of diet beverages in the study had a 31 percent higher risk of stroke, a 29 percent higher likelihood of heart disease, and a 16 percent higher chance of dying from another related cause.

Don’t be fooled by the latest promotions by the companies making artificial sweeteners, which claim that they’re a “good source” of certain vitamins. These companies are adding very small amounts of vitamins to their products—the scales weigh far more heavily on the side of health risks as opposed to any minor benefit from the miniscule amount of added vitamins.

Similarly, several years ago some major soda corporations started advertising that their diet soft drinks were a “good source” of a few vitamins and minerals. Not only do these small amounts do nothing to promote good health, but once again, the risks far outweigh any claimed benefits. In addition, these are not high-quality supplements, and some medical professionals have stated that the added vitamins in unrefrigerated soda deteriorate faster and are of even lower value by the time they go from production to consumption. No matter what the advertising says, using the words “healthy” and “soda” together is an oxymoron. Dr. Sudha Seshadri, senior author of a study linking diet soda to dementia and stroke (published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke), said in a 2017 New York Times article that while some beverages such as coffee and tea do provide health benefits, neither regular nor diet soda “of any kind” offer health benefits.

Drinking water is your best bet, and if you want flavor, you can make any number of refreshingly satisfying drinks by infusing your water with a variety of healthy choices. Combine mashed fruits, squeezed citrus, or vegetables with complementary fresh herbs like mint, ginger, basil or whatever else your taste buds enjoy. Not only are you getting good hydration, you’re also getting full-value vitamins and minerals (not processed ones) as well as antioxidants directly from nature’s source without added sugars or sweeteners.

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