Research: Heart disease and diet drinks.


There appears to be a link between diet soda and heart disease.

Cold glass of soda drink

A Cold glass of soda drink

Diet soda is one of the most common drinks that obese and diabetics turn to lower their calorie and sugar intake.  I have probably have consumed a tanker truck full of Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper in my lifetime.    I love the stuff.   Years ago, I made the switch to diet drinks to avoid the calories and not the full sugar stuff is too sweet for me to drink.  The diet drinks are just more quenching for me now and I prefer the flavor.  It has not always been that way but since the advent of aspartame, I prefer diet over sugar-sweetened soda.  There was a period of time in which I probably drank 3-6 servings per day.  That will likely change because new evidence suggests that we should probably reduce our intake.  You really can’t blame anyone for turning to diet drinks because diet beverages are calorie-free thus should not contribute to weight gain.  Who would have thought that these non-nutritive sweeteners would contribute to heart disease, diabetes, or weight gain?  People with diabetes are the highest per-capita consumers of diet beverages, tending to consume them as a replacement for dietary sources of sugar and especially in place of sugar-sweetened beverages.  In fact, drinking them is endorsed by dietetic, scientific, and medical organizations.  Diet beverage consumption is sold has a healthier choice that will result in weight loss, and thus, are considered advantageous for diabetes control.  The problem is that this belief is based on conjecture and until now, public health data was not available to refute this belief.  

The new research is based on the hypothesis that higher diet beverage intake is positively associated with incident Coronary Heart Disease.  Prior studies have shown a link to diabetes type 2[1] and obesity[2], but this study, which was published in Journal of Geriatric Internal Medicine shows a tie to heart disease[3].    The study was performed on just under 2600 patients that were enrolled in the Northern Manhatten Study.   The researchers assessed diet and regular soft drink consumption using a food frequency questionnaire over a mean follow-up of 10 years.  Over the period of the study, there were 591 incident vascular events.  The researchers determined that those who drank diet soft drinks daily had an elevated risk of vascular events even without metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, cardiac disease, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.  

The bottom line: Daily diet beverage consumption is associated with elevated risk of developing coronary artery disease with and without diabetes type 2.  Further research is needed before any conclusions can be made outside of a link.  Although causality cannot be determined, these results suggest the need to further evaluate dietary recommendations related to diet beverages.  I personally will consider reducing my consumption.   


J. A. Nettleton, P. L. Lutsey, Y. Wang, J. A. Lima, E. D. Michos, and D. R. Jacobs, “Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA),” D, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 688–694, Jan. 2009 [Online]. Available: 10.2337/dc08-1799″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
S. Bleich, J. Wolfson, S. Vine, and Y. Wang, “Diet-beverage consumption and caloric intake among US adults, overall and by body weight.,” Am J Public Health, vol. 104, no. 3, pp. e72-8, Mar. 2014. [PubMed]
H. Gardener, T. Rundek, M. Markert, C. B. Wright, M. S. V. Elkind, and R. L. Sacco, “Diet Soft Drink Consumption is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study,” J, vol. 27, no. 9, pp. 1120–1126, Jan. 2012 [Online]. Available: 10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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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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