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Study links diet soft drinks to stroke and heart attack

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A new study has found that people who drink a can or more of diet soda each day are at a dramatically increased risk of vascular events, including stroke.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and New York’s Columbia University studied the soft-drinking habits of 2,564 participants from the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) over the course of ten years. NOMAS is an ongoing research study, started in 1990, of the population of Washington Heights in Northern Manhattan.

They compared people who drank diet or regular soft drinks and their frequency, either less than one soft drink per month, up to six per week, or daily.

Researchers found study participants suffered 591 vascular events, including strokes, myocardial infarctions and vascular death over the course of the study. Those who drank diet soft drinks daily, versus those who drank none, had a 43% increased risk of vascular events, even after accounting for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Data showed no increased risk of vascular events associated with the consumption of regular soft drinks or light consumption of diet soft drinks.

The study Diet Soft Drink Consumption is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study was published online January 30 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

HuffPost reports that two other unrelated studies have found health concerns related to diet soda, one study showing that people who drank diet soda had a wider waistline and another study that found the artificial sweetener in diet soda raises the blood sugar in mice prone to diabetes.

“Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes,” said lead researcher Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., epidemiologist in the Miller School’s Department of Neurology, in a release. “However, the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear. There is a need for further research before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the potential health consequences of diet soft drink consumption.”