Diet Soda Linked to Strokes

Strokes are the number 3 cause of death in the United States, after heart attacks and cancer. Nearly 140,00 people die of strokes each year.

Most strokes are caused by an artery plugged up with cholesterol deposits. Occasionally, a stroke is caused by a brain bleed from a cracked and leaking artery. Only rarely are strokes are cause by a piece of debris drifting from somewhere else in your blood vessels.

Strokes are more likely to happen in people who have high blood pressure, are diabetic, or have metabolic syndrome. Now a link has also been found between drinking diet soda and stroke. Drinking diet soda has been linked with metabolic syndrome and diabetes in several studies. This study was done to isolate the contribution of diet soda to stroke from other risk factors that are known to contribute to stroke.

Hannah Gardner, a research scientist with a School of Medicine in Miami, Florida studied 2564 people from a multi-ethnic population. The average age was 69. The study carefully controlled for other factors that could contribute to stroke, such as: age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and calories consumed each day.

Over the 9 years of observation, there were 559 strokes among the people in this study. There was a 61% increase in the risk of stroke among those who drank daily diet soda compared with those who drank no soda. This risk was not found for those who drank regular soda.

After also controlling for metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease and history of heart disease, the risk was still 48% higher in those who drank diet sodas compared with those who did not. 

The specific things in diet soda that raise risk of stroke have not been identified yet, but it looks like diet soda is not an ideal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages.