About one in five people in the U.S. consume diet drinks on any given day, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1).
Most people rationalize that they can keep drinking and satisfy their soda addictions by switching to diet soda instead. It’s a choice often fuelled by the marketing departments of large soda companies that convince us that switching to diet is a perfectly healthy alternative.
Aspartame Linked To Heart Attacks and Stroke
One of the largest studies of its kind has recently examined the link between diet drinks and cardiovascular issues like heart attack and stroke in healthy, postmenopausal women. The study took place at the University of Iowa, and the findings were a little shocking.
60,000 women participated in the study, and it found that women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day are 30% more likely to experience a cardiovascular event, and 50% more likely to die from a related disease (2).
“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,” said Dr. Ankur Vyus, a Fellow in Cardiovascular Disease at UI Hospitals and Clinics and the lead investigator of the study.
The participants were split into four groups by the research team: two or more diet drinks a day, five to seven diet drinks per week, one to four diet drinks per week, and zero to three diet drinks per month.
After nine years of extensively evaluating the health records of each woman, the results showed that coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and cardiovascular death, occurred in 8.5% of the women who drank two or more diet drinks a day (compared to 6.9% of those who drank five-to-seven diet drinks per week; 6.8% who drank one-to-four drinks per week; and 7.2% in those who drank zero-to-three diet drinks per month).
The results didn’t appear to fit the hypothesis that aspartame was the leading cause of heart disease. However, the records did show that the women in the two or more a day group were significantly younger than the other groups, meaning that the diet sodas were causing health issues at an accelerated rate. The women in this group also had the highest BMIs, the highest rate of diabetes and highest average blood pressure.
While there has been no official conclusions drawn based on the study, “we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship,” Vyas explained. “This could have major public health implications.”
While this study comes on the heels of reports of already slipping sales of diet soda, it is still important that we make certain to reduce the consumption of drinks that are destroying our bodies from the inside out.
The studies on aspartame are convincing enough to keep this chemical far away from the insides of our body. For example, one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that aspartame is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukaemia in men (3). Another study published by Washington University Medical School outlines a possible connection between aspartame and brain tumours (4).
Moving away from artificial sweeteners is one of the best things we can do to keep our health in check for future generations to come. Besides, with the abundance of natural sweeteners out there that people can choose from, there really is no need for aspartame at all.