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Can Diet Soda Cause Heart Disease?

You never saw it coming…

You think you’re doing something good by switching from regular soda to diet.

And, voila, first a study pops up suggesting it may lead to weight gain.  More recently, a study is presented suggesting it increases risk of developing heart disease by a wholloping FORTY EIGHT percent!

What’s the deal?

It’s calorie free.  Sugar free.  How can a diet soda cause heart disease?

Let’s take a look at the study.

2,564 people were asked about their food intake, including their soda consumption, at the start of the study.  So it was all what’s known as self report. 

Fast forward 9 years.  Out of those 2,564 subjects, 559 cardiovascular events had occurred. 

The researchers adjusted for certain factors, such as age, sex, race, smoking, exercise, alcohol, metabolic syndrome and daily calories — all things that could play a role with heart disease.  When controlling for all of these and looking solely at diet soda intake as the independent variable, the risk for heart disease was still 48% higher.

So what does this tell us?

Drink a diet soda and you’re going to die of heart disease immediately?  Not so much.  In fact, the study itself had many flaws.

First, it was all based on self report.  Self report has errors and to make it even worse, it was only done at the start of the study.  A lot may have changed in 9 years as habits change.

Second, just because there is a correlation doesn’t mean there’s a cause and effect relationship. 

Third, it’s impossible to control for all other factors – no matter how hard scientists try.  That being said, what if they were washing down their daily fast food burger and fries with that diet soda – their overall diets may have been pretty lousy as a whole.  Maybe the trans fat and processed saturated fat was the issue when repeated day after day.

All that being said, this isn’t the first study to show a correlation between heart health and guzzling sodas. 

At the same time, it’s premature to suggest a definitive link between heart disease and drinking diet sodas.

Mohr Results Bottom Line: Diet soda isn’t on the top of my "favorite foods" list by any means.  While I’m not convinced it causes heart disease, I am convinced that the less you can drink, the better.  If you’re bored of water, flavor it with sliced fruit or veggies, to give it a hint of flavor.  WATER is amazing for you — drink up.  Diet anything — not so much.

2 Responses to Can Diet Soda Cause Heart Disease?

  1. Jim from Functional Fitness Facts February 16, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I’m glad you explained the flaws this study had. Too many people read about a particular study and assume that the results of the study are true, without taking into account how the results were arrived at. That being said, I agree with you that the less diet soda you drink the better.

  2. Chris September 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    I stopped drinking soda entirely (including diet) about two years ago, and I can attest that in the short term, I lost a significant amount of weight, and my mood is so much better now that I don’t crash from the sugar.

    In the long term, you will avoid certain diseases, so the benefits obviously outweigh the short lived titillation of some high fructose corn syrup infested liquid.

    People just need to drop soda entirely, and start drinking the most healthy, and natural liquid on the planet: water.

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