Research: Drinking diet beverages may be linked to some health risks

Research wordResearch word

Artificially sweetened beverages may not be as benign as we think.

Refreshing Bubbly Soda Pop
Refreshing Bubbly Soda Pop

There are a lot of people out there who drink diet sodas. It is a huge market with sales in the billions of dollars. There is a perception that diet sodas are healthier than sugar-sweetened sodas. The manufacturers claim that zero calories can help you lose weight and prevent disease. The problem is there is limited research to back up either claim and many of the studies are biased.

I have written several posts on the topic. In Research: Sugary Sodas Linked Again to Heart Disease Risk, I wrote about the link between sugary sodas and heart disease. There are also studies that show sugar-sweetened beverages tied an increase in all-cause mortality. The evidence is murky and the most you can say is that the research has shown a link.

The good news is there’s mounting evidence to back both sides. New research from March 2019, looked at sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and the risk for deleterious health outcomes suck as heart attacks and diabetes​[1]​. The researchers examined the association of the consumption of these two beverages and mortality in over 37,000 men from the Health Professions Follow-up Study and over 80,000 from the Nurse’s Health Study. A review of these studies’ results found a link between all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality and increased consumption of artificially sweetened beverages.

So what is the truth? Jack Nicholson out of A Few Good Men: ” You can’t handle the truth!”. Of course, you can handle the truth. The problem is all of these studies show winks not causes. They show a correlation between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages or sugar-sweetened beverages and a bad outcome. A correlation is not equal to cause. It can be just as likely that people predisposed risk of mortality are also more likely to drink diet soda. Therefore, more research is needed.

The bottom line: Sugary beverages are well documented to be linked to diabetes, heart disease, and causes of early mortality. This new study shows a link between artificially sweetened beverages and early death. I count my patients and recommend that you take into account that artificially sweetened beverages are not without risk. I would recommend moderation. If you have to have one, I would still recommend a diet soda that contains the empty calories of sugar. Instead, I would recommend that you drink water. Water will less added sugar can help you live healthier and lose weight.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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