Does Diet Soda Increase Your Risk of Stroke?

A new study presented to the American Stroke Association shows a link between diet soda consumption and higher rates of stroke and heart disease.

According to the study, people who reported drinking diet soda every day had a 60% higher rate of these cardiovascular diseases.  (60% higher than what isn’t clear: It could be 60% higher than those who don’t ever drink soda, 60% higher than the population at large, or 60% higher than those who don’t drink daily.  It’s not clear, because the study’s not yet published.)

But pretty much anyone who’s heard of this study so far expresses skepticism.  Presumably the statistic itself is correct-probably there’s a 60% higher rate of stroke and heart disease for people who drink a daily diet soda.  But presumably the diet soda itself isn’t causing the higher risk of these diseases.

Diet Coke Logo

Worse Than the Real Thing?

They’re skeptical because we’ve heard no plausible reason why diet sodas would contribute to stroke and heart disease.  There doesn’t even seem to be a theory out there.

More likely, drinking a diet soda every day merely tracks deeper behavioral problems.  Maybe a bad general diet causes people to hunger more for sweets, whether they be real sugar or a synthetic substitute.  Maybe the sweetness of the diet soda makes people pine more for sweets in everything they eat, at least some of which contains real sugar.  Maybe these people are sleep deprived, and turning to diet soda for caffeine.  Maybe they’re stressed out and it gives them a quick, refreshing break.  Or maybe drinking a diet soda every day signals a deeper addictive susceptibility that hurts these people’s health in other ways.

We should know more once the study is released publicly.  Until then we have to wonder.

Why do you think people who drink a daily diet soda have a higher risk of heart disease?

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10 Responses to Does Diet Soda Increase Your Risk of Stroke?

  1. I have seen this on the internet and it really bugs me, as diet soda is a big weakness of mine. I suspect you’re right, diet soda in and of itself doesn’t seem to be the likely culprit for a higher rate of stroke and heart disease. We’ll see what that 60% means when the study is released. In the meantime, my blood pressure is up since seeing those headlines every time I drink diet Coke!! Perhaps it’s sensationalist reporting that contributes to a 60% increase in heart disease and stroke! Someone should study THAT.

    • Doug says:

      Ha–I actually drink way more diet soda than I should, as well. I don’t like that it has chemicals, but I also haven’t seen any studies suggesting that those chemicals are harmful. In the meantime, it’s a refreshing beverage that doesn’t put weight on me, and gives me the caffeine-driven pick-me-up. I’ve tried to quit several times, but it’s tough to do so when there really aren’t any proven side effects. It’s tough to stop doing something for health reasons when you don’t even know if there are health reasons!

      I wouldn’t worry too much about this study unless something big is discovered when the study gets published. Sensationalist reporting indeed–people who conduct studies need them to say something important, and here they’ve certainly gotten our attention. I guess we’ll see how well deserved it is.
      Doug

      • Glad I’m not the only one. I find it really hard to kick this habit. Sometimes I crave the caffeine, and sometimes just the fizz, but whatever it is, I seem to be able to kick the habit and then I get a crazy craving and HAVE to have one! I tell ya, nothing is good for you any more. We can’t even have minor vices, it seems! But I’m with you, I want to see real proof. And even then who knows if I’ll ever give it up? That physical craving thing is tough to over come.

        • Doug says:

          Ha–I have pretty much the same relationship with the stuff. But I still think we’d both stop drinking it if we had a truly compelling health reason.

          As if on cue, the following article appeared yesterday on The Huffington Post:

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-f-jacobson/caramel-coloring-in-soda-_b_823639.html?ir=Food

          It says the caramel coloring used in diet and regular Coke and Pepsi is a carcinogen.

          Great, NOW they tell me ;)

          The good (?) news is that it doesn’t seem to be the most powerful of carcinogens. The bad news is, that means I will probably keep drinking it. My guess is, after your last comment, you will keep drinking it too!

          I may post on this shortly. I almost wish they’d found it to be more dangerous than it is so I would cut it out.

          Doug

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