Originally published August 6 2015
Artificial sweeteners cause heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems, study suggests
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) In light of a recent study finding that nearly 200,000 people per year are killed by sugar-sweetened beverages, some people might be tempted to switch to diet soft drinks instead. The information from this study was presented at the 63rd Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology in 2014, where they discussed how diet soft drinks can cause many of the same health problems as sugar-sweetened drinks.
Specifically, the Tufts University study led by Gitanjali Singh, Ph.D., found that diet soft drinks increased healthy postmenopausal women's risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
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Two drinks per day = 50 percent more likely to dieThe research was conducted on 59,614 women participating in the ongoing Women's Health Initiative study, constituting one of the largest ever study of its kind. Based on self-reports of diet drink consumption, the researchers divided the women into four groups: Those who drank two or more diet drinks per day; those who drank five to seven per week; those who drank one to four per week; and those who drank zero to three per month. A drink was defined as a 12-ounce artificially sweetened beverage, including fruit drinks.
After an average follow-up of 8.7 years, women who drank two or more diet drinks per day were more likely to have suffered from heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack or stroke than women in the other three groups. They were 30 percent more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than women who had less than one diet drink per week, and 50 percent more likely to have died from a heart-related disease.
In general, the women with the highest diet beverage consumption tended to be younger and were more likely to smoke and to have diabetes, high blood pressure and a higher body mass index. But their increased rates of cardiovascular problems remained even after the scientists adjusted for these risk factors, along with others including exercise, calorie intake, salt intake, sugar-sweetened beverage intake, use of hormone therapy and high cholesterol.
"This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to the metabolic syndrome," lead investigator Dr. Ankur Vyas said.
Because the study was designed only to look for correlations, the researchers could not prove that the diet drinks caused the observed effect.
But many prior studies have linked the artificial sweetener aspartame - widely used in diet beverages - to a variety of health problems. Specifically, aspartame has been linked to cancer, behavioral problems and neurological disorders. Symptoms reported by consumers include headaches, insomnia and even seizures.
Public finally waking up?The new findings are of significant public health importance, Vyas said, noting that about 20 percent of the U.S. population drinks a diet beverage on any given day, according to 2009-2010 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Despite the popularity of these drinks, little research has been done into their cardiovascular effects.
"It's too soon to tell people to change their behavior based on this study," Vyas said. "However, based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship, if one truly exists. This could have major public health implications."
Fortunately, the U.S. public may already be waking up to the dangers of sweetened beverages, of both the sugary and diet variety. According to beverage industry experts, growing concern over obesity and over the health effects of sweetened drinks are causing sales of these products to drop drastically.
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