(NaturalNews) According to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2011 recently held in Los Angeles, drinking diet sodas could dramatically raise your risk of having a vascular event, mainly a stroke.
Specifically, in the large, multi-ethnic Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) involving 2,564 people, scientists found people who drank diet sodas every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who reported not drinking these artificially sweetened sodas.
NOMAS, a collaboration of research teams at Columbia University in New York and Miami's Miller School of Medicine, was started in 1993 to examine stroke incidence and risk factors in an urban and multi-ethnic population. In all, 3,298 participants over 40 years old (with an average age 69) were enrolled in NOMAS through 2001 and these research subjects are still being followed.
At the beginning of the diet soda study, researchers asked NOMAS participants how many and what kind of sodas they drank. Then, using this data, the scientists grouped the research subjects into seven consumption categories: no soda (less than one soda of any kind per month); moderate regular soda only (between soda per month and six per week); daily regular soda (at least one per day); moderate diet soda only; daily diet soda only; moderate diet soda and sometimes regular soda; and daily diet soda with any regular soda consumption.
During an average follow-up of about a decade, participants had experienced 559 vascular events, including ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot or blocked vessel) and hemorrhagic stroke (caused by rupture of a weakened blood vessel). The research team factored in the participants' age, sex, race or ethnicity, smoking status, exercise, alcohol consumption and daily caloric intake.
They also took into consideration which people had metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease and heart disease. Taking all of these risk factors into consideration, the increased chance of having a stroke persisted at a rate 48 percent higher for regular diet soda drinkers.
"If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes," said Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Florida, in a statement to the media.
So the take away common sense message might seem to be this: if you want to lower your risk for stroke and you drink a lot of diet colas, it couldn't hurt to drink something else. Right?
Wrong, according to the Calorie Control Council, which has come out swinging with a near hysterical attack on the study.
That's not surprising when you take the time to search and finally locate the tiny fine print at the bottom of the Calorie Control Council's web site and click on the "about us" link. That page explains the group is an international non-profit association set up specifically to hype the interest of the low-calorie food and beverage industry. According to the website, it "represents manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie and light foods and beverages, including the manufacturers and suppliers of more than two dozen different alternative sweeteners and other low-calorie ingredients."
The Calorie Control Council issued a press release dismissing the diet-sodas-linked-to-stroke research because the findings have not been peer reviewed by any independent scientists and the study has not been published in a scientific journal. This criticism makes little sense because the scientists were not claiming to be presenting a peer-reviewed journal article. As anyone who follows scientific conferences knows, the research was presented at the International Stroke Conference poster sessions.
Poster sessions are where preliminary research is presented in the form of an abstract and discussed. Presenting a study at a poster session does not mean the results will not eventually be published or peer reviewed -- nor does it mean it is bad science.
The Calorie Control Council's press release also pointed out that Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor at ABC News, warned the study was ".. bad because of the behavior that it can induce and the fear that people have. I don't think people should change behavior based on this study." In other words, Dr. Besser apparently thinks people changing behavior and trying some other beverage -- like water -- instead of drinking chemically sweetened diet sodas is somehow something to be feared.
And there was another bizarre argument thrown out by the Calorie Control Council in an attempt to discredit the soda and stroke link research. The group pointed out that the American Heart Association (AHA) sponsored the conference where this poster was presented. And on the AHA website is this statement: "Try non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or saccharin in moderation. Non-nutritive sweeteners may be a way to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding more calories to your diet. The FDA has determined that non-nutritive sweeteners are safe."
So the supposed "proof" that the diet soda and stroke study is bogus science is an endorsement by the AHA of chemical sweeteners on the AHA website, according to the Calorie Control Council. But this pro non-nutritive sweeteners endorsement, right or wrong, has nothing whatsoever to do with the findings of the new study under discussion.