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Diet soda linked to heart problems, death

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New research out today says that women who consume more than one diet drink per day have an increased likelihood of developing heart disease, and even death.

In a study to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting for the American College of Cardiology in Washington, DC, researchers found that women who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 30 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or suffering some other kind of cardiovascular “event” – and 50 percent of these women were more likely to die, compared with their female counterparts who rarely, if ever drank diet beverages.

Researchers for the study noted that the problem isn’t the diet soda. The problem is the number of sugar-free beverages consumed, as people often drink diet beverages to make up for other unhealthy habits, including eating too much junk food.

Dr. Ankur Vyas, a cardiovascular disease expert at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic and leader of the study, said that their research indicates a connection between too much diet soda and mortality. He added, however, that the risk of dying from too many diet drinks is not an “extreme” one.

Earlier studies have established that consuming diet drinks doesn’t help folks lose weight, but they can be beneficial for diabetics and others wanting to avoid sugar-laden beverages.

For this new study, the research team studied nearly 60,000 middle-aged women who participated in a decade long study on women’s health. As part of the study, the women completed a questionnaire on food and drinks, including detailed questions about diet soda and diet fruit drinks.

Nearly nine years into the study, the researchers checked up on the women’s health status and found that 8.5 percent of those who drank two or more diet drinks a day had heart disease, compared with 6.8 percent of those who consumed only four or fewer diet drinks a week and 7.2 percent who drank hardly any diet beverages at all.

In addition, the team found that the women who drank the most diet beverages were also more likely to smoke and be overweight, as well as have high blood pressure and diabetes.

Heart disease is the number killer in the United States, so it may be prudent to cut back on the amount of diet drinks consumed, especially for middle-aged women who already have risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

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