Diet Drinks Increase Heart Attack Risk

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Drink an occasional diet drink? You may want to reconsider, especially in light of the latest study.

According to research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session, women who drank diet drinks face a greater risk of heart attack and death compared to women who rarely drank them at all.

Concerned as much as we are? Stay tuned. The study is rather revealing.

Diet Drinks Linked to a 30% Increased Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes

In the largest study of its kind, researchers collected data on over 59,000 post-menopausal women to examine the relationship between diet drinks and cardiovascular disease.

They analyzed how often the women drank diet drinks (including diet soda and diet fruit drinks) over a three-month period. After 9 years, they followed-up on the women.

They found that women who drank two or more diet drinks a day were 30% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event and 50% more likely to die of related diseases, compared to women who never or only rarely consumed such drinks.1

In addition to being at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems, the women were also more likely to have diabetes, hypertension, and a higher BMI (body mass index).

Prior Research Links Diet Drinks to Metabolic Syndrome and Weight Gain

Researchers found an association, but it’s not clear if the diet drinks actually caused the heart-related problems.

However, it doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea, since previous studies have linked diet drinks to metabolic syndrome and weight gain and both are associated with heart disease.1

Further studies are needed to determine an actual link.

Should You Avoid all Artificial Sweeteners?

For the time being — yes. Not enough research has been conducted to determine their long-term effects, and the research results that we have seen don’t paint a pretty picture.

Going the diet route may seem like a good idea in the short-term, but it really isn’t. Compared to sugary drinks, artificially sweetened drinks really aren't the lesser of two evils.

Sugar Isn’t Any Better

Should you switch back to sugar? No. Ideally, you should avoid anything sweetened with it. Most adult Americans consume 10% or more of their calories from added sugar2, which is too much for maintaining optimal health.

If you suffer from a perpetual sweet tooth, consider alternative sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, D-ribose, and xylitol. And moderately use raw honey. Not only are the alternatives healthier, they actually have health benefits. 

And if you can, wean yourself off sweets altogether. Get your taste buds accustomed to not craving sweet foods. It really is the smartest strategy overall.


  1. Available at: Accessed May 13, 2014. 
  2. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-524. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563.


Anonymous said...

My guess is the diet drinks were used because of the health issues, NOT the cause.

Anonymous said...

Correlation is not causation. Evidence for any causative effect from artificial sweeteners has been universally weak, non-significant, or methodologically flawed. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, the original aspartame studies have been thoroughly discredited and debunked, and repeatedly failed replication.

It seems obvious to me that people already at higher risk of cardiovascular events would be much more likely to use artificial sweeteners than not, for a number of reasons. Any strictly observational study cannot determine something as subtle as this. Bleeding people who go to the hospital are more likely to die. Does the hospital kill them? Probably not. Rather, they self-select for severity of injury, biasing the statistics.

There remains the possibility that simply tasting something sweet, regardless of what it is, triggers unconscious neurological, hormonal, and metabolic changes that can be detrimental. In this scenario, sweeteners with beneficial effects would be canceling this out to some degree, masking the wider overall trend.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comments, sounds like someone with an analytical mind. Statistics can be molded to fit a conclusion & is often done. Think about the forms the Doctors office equipment has us fill out like how many drinks a day or week do you consume? Sorry but statics conclusions are a pet peeve of mine.

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