If you thought sipping on diet soda was a healthier alternative to sugary soft drinks, think again. French scientists have linked these popular beverages to heart disease and stroke.
Findings from a paper published in the October 26, 2020 Journal of the American College of Cardiology monitored 100,000 French adults participating in the French NutriNet-Santé study. The research revealed that subjects who drank diet soda weren’t any healthier than their counterparts who enjoyed sugary beverages.
Starting in 2009, researchers tracked the amount and frequency of diet soda consumed by study volunteers. Individuals labeled by scientists as “high consumers” of diet soft drinks had a 32% higher incidence of coronary disease and stroke compared to individuals who drank less diet soda or none at all.
While artificial sweeteners may be the culprit, it could be that some diet soda drinkers have medical issues such as obesity or diabetes, or unhealthy lifestyles like smoking or drinking alcohol that predisposed them to heart disease.
This controversial study has received pushback from groups including the American Beverage Association and the Calorie Control Council. They emphasize that the studies may be flawed, that artificial sweeteners are safe to consume, and are helpful to diabetics, overweight individuals, and other people looking to reduce their sugar intake.
The French study isn’t the only one that’s shown a link between diet sodas and coronary disease. A February 2019 paper published by the American Heart Association in their journal, Stroke, looked at how low-calorie sodas might impact women. Volunteers were asked to self-report the amount of diet soda they drank. Scientists discovered a 29% increase in female coronary heart disease among soda drinkers. Women who drank two or more diet beverages daily faced the greatest risk.
Another 2019 study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) came up with similar conclusions. It tracked diet soda consumption reported by 450,000 Europeans in 10 countries over 16 years. The research revealed that individuals who polished off two or more diet sodas each day were 34% likely to succumb to an early death. While it’s not quite as tasty, medical experts suggest eliminating soda completely and emphasize that water is the healthiest beverage to drink.