Dr. Stephen Sinatra
We've all heard about the side effects of diet soda -- and here's another one that involves cardiovascular health. According to a recent paper presented at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference, drinking diet soda can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers said that consuming as little as one diet soda a day could increase your risk of heart attack and stroke by 48 percent.
How Can Diet Soda Cause a Stroke?
The connection appears to be related to metabolic syndrome. When your body tastes the sweetness of a diet soda, it releases insulin to handle the expected sugar. When no sugar shows up in the diet food, you have an insulin overload in your bloodstream.
A constant overload makes your cells less responsive to insulin. A high level of insulin also triggers hunger signals and a craving for other sweet foods.
As you can imagine, the beverage industry isn’t very happy with the results of this study. The American Beverage Association’s senior vice president for science policy (they have one of these?) said there’s no evidence “that diet soda uniquely causes increased risk of vascular events or stroke.”
What surprises me is the response of some highly visible physicians. Dr. Richard Besser, a health and medical editor for ABC News, says that, “I wouldn’t change behavior based on [this study].” The same response came from Walt Willett, with the Harvard School of Public Health: “We shouldn’t really change our behavior.”
What are these guys thinking? The evidence has been clear for a while now that diet sodas contribute to obesity and increase your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. This most recent study is another nail in the coffin for the side effects of diet sodas.
If you are a diet soda drinker, your best bet is to switch to good, old-fashioned water. If you need something a bit sweeter, you can try mineral water with a splash of cranberry juice or even flavored stevia. Iced green tea also makes a great alternative to diet soda. The change from diet soda could dramatically alter your heart health!