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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.”

14 responses to “Soda or water? Research shows artificial sweeteners aren’t so good for you”

  1. Donald B Kelman

    This is "pop science', not real science. As noted, "correlation is not causation", and dissemination of these stories which are under-powered for any such conclusions and which ignore the myriad other factors that have not been excluded, just contribute to the confusion of people, as the pendulum of disinformation swings back and forth. Perhaps the use of sugar substitutes relates to personal concern about new health changes perceived by individuals. "Pop science" theories should not be publicized as science to promote personal theories, especially by medical institutions. It backfires over time. Show data to be credible!

  2. Carter Leeming

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the most useful websites on the web. I'm going to highly recommend this site!


    Dr. Jason Fung, Canadian MD kidney doctor, in his 2016 book "The Obesity Code" indicates that the artificial sweeteners spike insulin. Insulin is the fat-creation/fat-conservation hormone. People who drink artificial sweeteners do not loose weight. Artificial sweeteners prevent effective weight loss by raising the levels of the fat-protection hormone, insulin. Stevia is included. Obesity is a defense against high blood sugars. Obesity is a defensive method for keeping your blood sugar normal. Obesity is very often the warning sign of impending diabetes Type 2. Diabetes Type 2 is not good for you. Also, ask your dentist about carbonated beverages which are artificially sweetened. I do trust the Chemists in a laboratory that is not-for-profit! Your body is "a big vat of tea". So what are you putting in your "tea"?

  4. Tom

    No one mentions the acid in sodas. Most are terrible, diet or regular, with pH's in the 2's and 3's. Root beers are the exception. As an aside, an acquaintance lost 30 lbs in one year just giving up diet coke.

  5. Judy

    A word of warning to those drinking diet soda. I am a diabetic and drank a lot of diet soda over the years UNTIL my stomach started acting up. After an endoscopy, it was found that my esophagus and stomach were both bright red! Soda had ruined my gut also. I have been off all soda for the past 5 years, am doing much better, and I drink only water. So think twice before you pop that top on the can or order it at a restaurant. There is nothing good in any soda!

  6. G. Glass

    I've been drinking diet soda for 40 years and just yesterday they have discovered a blockage in my left leg which will need angioplasty. I believe I've inherited my father's vein troubles and he never, ever drank soda ever, diet or regular. It has ruined the enamel on my teeth though.

  7. A. Hetzel

    Was Stevia included in the study?
    My research shows no ill effects from Stevia use. It has 0 calories .
    Drinking water while watching TV in the evening is bearing so I make a drink: 16 oz ROS filtered water, 2 tbsp tart Cherry juice (80 calories per fl. oz., 1/8 slice lemon, 1 tsp Stevia. Shake well and chill overnight. Low calorie and quite tasty. Lots of benefits.
    I have not consumed diet anything for over 30 years. If at a restaurant I order coffee, tea, water, or occasionally a regular soft drink which contains high fructose corn syrup which also has side effects. No one uses sugar anymore.

    1. Adam Hocking

      You can read more about the study at this link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30802187/

      Thank you for reaching out with your question. – Adam

  8. James Laudon

    The diet soda study is a correlation study which is not proof of anything. Fatter people are more likely to have strokes, heart disease etc. and they also drink more diet soda. FAKE SCIENCE.

    1. Dean

      Whoa. Not so quick with “fake science “ designation. It was pointed out the study had some limitations, but the numbers indicate their “might” be some correlation.

    2. Mark Kopecky

      Not so sure about that. I know plenty of skinny people who drink diet soda regularly. Some of them are fitness freaks. And lot of fat people drink regular soda.

    3. Jim M

      Agree Correlation is not causation and unfortunately this is the fault in so many of these published studies

    4. Judy K

      James L. I am not fat, and I drink about four ounces of diet soda a day. i could have a heart attack, you could have a heart attack at any time. Who knows? I believe in science. At least I limit my use of the soda. Your statements don't add up, All strokes and heart attacks are not limited to heavier people.

      1. James K Laudon

        I AM A scientist. have taken many courses in statistical analysis, have a minor in Mathematics. I always follow the science which is the most probable answer to 96% certainty. What I was pointing out is that correlation study's only point out that two or more things are moving in the same direction. They do not show that one causes the other or that that they both are caused by one pre many other things.

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