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Study Associates Diet Soda Consumption With Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

Whether the claims about it are legitimate or not, it seems that diet soda just can't stay out of the crosshairs of public health concerns.

A popular target for health-conscious worries is the aspartame that is often used as a sweetener for diet sodas, as it is widely believed that the additive can cause cancer and worsen depression.

However, as PBS reported, studies by the American Chemical Society have shown that aspartame couldn't possibly produce enough carcinogens to threaten the body, nor is it any more likely to cause depression than milk.

However, a new study found an interesting link between diet sodas and health risks, and it's not necessarily trotting out the same aspartame boogeyman.

A joint study by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association found that women over 50 who drank two or more diet sodas a day were vulnerable to clot-based strokes and heart attacks.

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According to WXYZ Detroit, these findings came in the wake of previous studies that also associated the drinks with dementia, type-2 diabetes, and strangely, obesity.

To conduct this study, 80,000 postmenopausal women were asked how often they drank a 12-ounce serving of diet soda over the past three months.

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The study's lead author, Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, said they tracked the women's health results over an average of 12 years.

They then found that women who consumed their two drinks a day were 31% more likely to have a clot-based stroke and 29% more likely to have heart disease than those who drank it less than once a week.

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Once they factored out women with a history of heart disease or diabetes, women who were considered obese were twice as likely to have a clot-based stroke, while African-American women in this category were four times as likely.

As scary as these numbers may seem, the study's authors were careful not to suggest that their study means that drinking diet soda will cause strokes and heart attacks.

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As researchers told CNN, it's not possible to determine whether this increased risk had to do with any specific drink or sweetener, or a hidden health issue they hadn't considered.

Instead, the research team sought to bring us closer to the answer for why diet sodas keep showing links to health risks.

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As Mossavar-Rahmani said, "What is it about these diet drinks? Is it something about the sweeteners? Are they doing something to our gut health and metabolism? These are questions we need answered."

Considering their choice of participants, however, there are factors besides diet soda consumption that may be at work here.

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As cardiologist Dr. Kevin Campbell told CNN, "Postmenopausal women tend to have higher risk for vascular disease because they are lacking the protective effects of natural hormones."

High blood pressure and blood sugar levels that don't quite fit the bill for hypertension or diabetes are also potential factors.

Thus, it's possible that some women in that study were compelled to take up diet beverages to help lose weight once they learned of those issues.

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As Rachel Johnson from the University of Hawaii said, those who find it difficult to cut sugary drinks in favor of water may turn to diet sodas to make that transition easier.

Still, it's likely wise to treat the drinks as a means to reach that end goal and not the end goal itself.

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As Mossavar-Rahmani said, "We can't just go all day drinking diet soda. Unlimited amounts are not harmless."

h/t: WXYZ Detroit