A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Soda or water? Research shows artificial sweeteners aren’t so good for you

Two glasses of soda - Dangers of diet soda

If you’re a woman consuming diet soda regularly you could be at greater risk for stroke, heart disease and other serious health issues.

You’re thirsty. You reach for that mid-morning diet soda. You’re feeling pretty good about it since it’s a diet beverage and you’re not taking in all the sugar of a regular drink.

So, you celebrate 150 less calories to burn.

But, wait. There’s a downside you should know about.

According to Marshfield Clinic Health System Dietitian Chrisanne Urban, that diet soda contains artificial sweeteners and scientists are learning if you’re a woman consuming diet soda regularly you could be at greater risk for stroke, heart disease and other serious health issues.

Research points to the problem

Urban pointed to a research study released Feb. 14, 2019, in Stroke, a medical journal of the American Heart Association (AHA) – “Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative.”

This research, involving more than 80,000 postmenopausal women, looked at the association between self-reported drinking artificially sweetened beverages and stroke, coronary heart disease and death. And, Urban said, results show cause for concern.

Women in this large-scale study are part of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, a multicenter long-term study of the health of postmenopausal women, ages 50-79, who were tracked for nearly 12 years.

This recent study looked at women drinking two or more diet sodas a day vs. women who drank one can a week or less. It was found that “the group of women drinking more had about a 30 percent increased risk of certain types of stroke and blood clots, coronary artery disease and death,” Urban said. “All in all, it did link drinking diet beverages and small artery strokes. There are some limitations to the study and more research needs to be done but to me it does raise concern.”

Diet beverages contain different types of artificial sweeteners but researchers did not identify specific types or brands of sweeteners or beverages in their findings.

Urban said the AHA a year ago recommended using artificially-sweetened drinks to replace sugared beverages to decrease sugar consumption, especially for people with diabetes. “The AHA recommended drinking diet soda as a step to stop drinking regular soda with the goal to drink less and then no soda at all.”

Consume diet soda as a transition

She sees diet beverages as a transition from sugary drinks to consuming water only. “If I work with a person drinking even a six-pack of regular soda, with 10 teaspoons of sugar in each can, I want to get the person off of regular soda to diet soda as a stepping stone. I’m picking the worst of two evils.”

It’s about looking at the big picture.

“Nothing’s good for you but all things in moderation,” Urban said. “Do I drink soda? Yes, a can a week, maybe. If you have concerns, don’t drink artificially-sweetened beverages. I’m not saying never have diet soda but water is the best way to go.”

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