Diet soda and stroke: Is there a link?
February 10th, 2011
01:19 PM ET

Diet soda and stroke: Is there a link?

Is it really called "diet" soda because it's better for you? A new study is calling that into question, but beware that the results are preliminary and don't entirely support the conclusion.

Researchers at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2011 conducted an experiment on this topic, and found that people who drink diet soda may have a much higher risk of vascular events compared to those who don't drink soda. They followed participants for an average of 9.3 years and kept track of vascular events such as stroke that occurred.

They also said their results showed a connection between salt and stroke. After a follow-up period of about 9.7 years years, those taking in more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day doubled their stroke risk compared to people who consume less than 1,500 milligrams per day.

"This study suggests that diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may be associated with a greater risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death than regular soda," the researchers said in the study abstract.

But all of the information about how much soda and sodium consumed came from the participants' own reports, not from a controlled setting. It's possible that they remembered or stated their habits incorrectly, or did not maintain those habits consistently over time. Researchers also do not know about the specific brands and flavors of diet and regular sodas consumed.

"There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that diet soda uniquely causes increased risk of vascular events or stroke," Dr. Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy for the American Beverage Association, said in a statement.

Storey pointed out that this information comes from a research paper abstract presented at a conference, and was not in a study reviewed for publication by experts in the field. Also, the study authors did not control for weight gain or for family history of stroke.

This is the first time diet soda has been linked to vascular events, but previous research has implicated it in other health issues.

A 2007 study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that people who drink one or more soft drinks a day are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a heart disease precursor, than people who drink less than one soda a day.

Still, that study also only showed an association, and did not prove that sodas cause metabolic syndrome. There could be something else about people who drink soda regularly that directly leads to risk factors for heart disease.

About $74 billion worth of carbonated soft drinks are sold in the United States every year, with "diet" varieties constituting 30% of that, according to Beverage Digest.

soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Rich

    The opening line of this article is so ridiculous as to be laughable. How could diet sodas be seen as anything but healthier than sugar-filled sodas?

    February 10, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jay Blandon Ray

      got it. so if you see the word "DIET" in a product's name, there is no way it can be worse than the original product. brilliant!!! Remember diet potato chips with Olestra? yeah, turned out, the olestra was worse for you than the saturated fat. Just think a little bit before you write next time.

      February 10, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      That's just our crazy, mixed-up world for ya!

      February 10, 2011 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
  2. Listen

    Listen to this before drinking diet soda:


    February 10, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jay Blandon Ray

    I am 72 years old. Prior to turning 71, I never smoked, drank, or ate sugar. I pretty much consumed leafy vegetables and various meats (mostly non-human), naturally fed and grown, of course. When I turned 71, I decided to have a diet soda. Almost immediately, I had to have both pacreases removed and now experience moments of unintelligibility where I believe that there actually is a person named Jethro Tull and that Fergie is a woman. Diet Soda has ruined my life.

    February 10, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • graciegal

      There IS a person named Jethro Tull – he invented cultivation in farming in the early 1700s.

      February 10, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Jay Blandon Ray

      graciegal – i thought it was obvious that i was referring to post 18th-century people... 😉

      February 11, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
  4. Jamie K

    Could it be that soda drinkers drink a lot less water than non-soda drinkers, thus dehydrating them a bit? Caffeine is also a known diuretic, dehydrating the body further. Dehydration has been known to be a contributing factor to heart attacks and other heart disease.

    February 10, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Richard

    For what it's worth: My sister drank Diet Coke (with aspertame) at the rate of several cans a day for years. Currently she is wasting away in a nursing home with Parkinson's disease and, now in her early 80's, is suffering from dementia.

    February 10, 2011 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Suzanne

    I was recently diagnosed a Celiac. For the past 5 months, did not drink anything 'diet', then had over 2 weeks, had a couple Coke Zeros, a couple diet Lipton tea. I definitely had a reaction! I went through menu, no gluten there, had to be the aspartame. I looked up side effects of aspartame, discovered almost similiar to gluten sensitivity. I know some meds, even vitamins use gluten in their products, have no proof other than my reaction, that in the making of aspartame there might be some gluten in it. Regardless, all aspartame products are now banned in our household.

    February 10, 2011 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Eliseo

    People who drink diet soda usually are fat that's why they are more likely to get a heart attack or have heart issues!

    It's like saying, people who buy large belts are more likely to get a heart attack than those who buy small belts (the belts have nothing to do with it)!

    February 10, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BIG Dieters

      You're right! But talking about big-uns, what is always amusing to see is some really big, obese person going into a restaurant and ordering a Big Steak, Mashed Potatoes (with lots of gravy), Steamed Vegetables, Yams, Corn, A Side Dish of Fried Fish, Lots of Bread, several slices of Chocolate Cake for dessert, and for a drink they order a DIET soda! Now if that doesn't beat all! And incidentally, if you want to know where a good restaurant is at, I've been told to just follow a fat person 'cause nine times out of ten that's exactly where they're headed!

      February 10, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse |
  8. jason

    Being a former 12pk a day dew drinker throughout my teenage years i obviously didn't die from it and i was never sick or ill do to it and actually was never really ill at all but i will say once i got older it helped to place on some pounds .Nowdays since i've sworn off all soft drinks and stick to water and juices without sugars added or corn syrup its amazing how the pound fell right off within a years time.

    February 10, 2011 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. johnny mundane

    donald rumsfeld's power led to Nutrasweet being made a "must-have" component of all kinds of products, from "diet sodas" to toothpaste etc. The fact is Nutrasweet contains wood alcohol, which is something nobody should ingest. Sad but true, powerful people can make millions of consumers risk their health by drinking crappy "diet" colas etc. Let's let common sense rule please – this sort of poison is not what we need....

    February 10, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Christopher Alan Fields - Muncie Indiana USA

    All artificial sweeteners are proven to cause brain damage and cancer, the fda refused to allow nutrasweet originally but then donald rumsfeld got it approved, even though every study showed that it caused cancer. Help Fight the InfoWars on this PrisonPlanet check out Alex Jones of Austin Texas USA.

    February 10, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Pop Cop

    Diet pop is for fat & really fat people, regular pop is for people who have not progressed to that piont. It is all poison people ! Oh it rots your teeth too.

    February 10, 2011 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ed

    I suppose next week there will be a study showing how drinking diet soda will LOWER your risk of stroke. Too many studies to keep track of.

    February 10, 2011 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. John

    I've been drinking Diet Coke daily for over 18 years....about 8 to 12 per day. (No kidding). I'm healthy, successful, and pretty sharp. I've heard MANY people tell me that DCs are horrible for me. Usually, those people are borderline malnourished or overweight. This topic makes me smile. : )

    February 10, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Gabor47

    "Diet soda and stroke: Is there a link?"

    No, but this article and the number of multimillion dollar lawsuits will have a link. Watch for TV commercials in a few month:"Did you loved one who used to drink diet soda died of heart attack? If yes, call 1-800-SUE-THEM (or whatever number, I hope I didn't come up with a real one :).

    It would be too long an complicated to explain how our economy is seriously harmed by the litigation madness which is running amok, uncontrolled, because most of the lawmakers are lawyers.

    February 10, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mike

    I am going with the study that shows anyone born on their birthday are more likely to die than those not born on their birthday!

    February 10, 2011 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Greg

    Yep, it's called Aspartame.

    February 10, 2011 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Greg

    Agree with some of the posters – this seems like irresponsible application of basic statistics. Not only is correlation not causation but without a theory of causation or hypothesis ex ante, they could have just mined the data for any results. And the data integrity seems to be lacking. You could probably find that wearing overalls or driving a Kia are linked to strokes. I'm not going to argue that diet soda is great for you (we should all just drink water full time probably) but despite the gaping holes in this study, of course this headline will attract media attention, public interest and future funding for researchers.

    February 10, 2011 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. cbabakami

    I am diabetic with metabolic syndrome., I stopped taking diet soda or any kind fo soda (read a article on soda from a reputed medical study) and tested my blood before and after: there was a dramatic improvement in my electrolyte and general blood profile after stopped taking diets: my pysicain was surprisd and asked what did I do. I am the living proof there is something wrong in diet sodas for diabetics and people with metabolic symdrome : STOP them imediately and check out your bllod 1-3 months afterwards ! I dno not know whether they are good or bad for healthy people.

    February 10, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rich Murray

    Woodrow C Monte, PhD, Emiritus Prof. Nutrition gives many PDFs of
    reseach - methanol (11% of aspartame) puts formaldehyde into brain
    and body - multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, cancers, birth defects,
    headaches: Rich Murray 2010.05.13
    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    [ Other formaldehyde sources include alcohol drinks and
    tobacco and wood smoke,
    while adequate folic acid levels protect most people. ]


    589 references, many abstracts and full texts

    Methanol: Where Is It Found? How Can It Be Avoided?

    AVOID the following, ranked in order of greatest danger:

    1. Cigarettes.
    2. Diet foods and drinks with aspartame.
    3. Fruit and vegetable products and their juices in bottles,
    cans, or pouches.
    4. Jellies, jams, and marmalades not made fresh and kept
    5. Black currant and tomato juice products, fresh or
    6. Tomato sauces, unless first simmered at least 3 hours
    with an open lid.
    7. Smoked food of any kind, particularly fish and meat.
    8. Sugar-free chewing gum.
    9. Slivovitz: You can consume one alcoholic drink a day
    on this diet - no more! [ no fruit brandies ]
    10. Overly ripe or near rotting fruits or vegetables.

    Selection from Article 2, Fitness Life, December 2007, and
    well discussed in the DVD video:

    "Identical Symptoms of MS, Methanol Poisoning
    and Aspartame Toxicity

    The symptoms of multiple sclerosis (44, 83, 85, 169), chronic
    and acute methanol poisoning (13, 144, 189), and Aspartame
    toxicity (54, 58, 93, 181), are in all ways identical.

    February 10, 2011 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dangerous Ingredients

      Thank you, Rich! And thank you especially Dr.Monte for this wonderful report! It has always been my main fear that I am going to consume something with Aspartame or High Fructose Syrup in it. Most chewing gum has Aspartame as well as other products while many drinks and colas have High Fructose Syrup. There needs to be a Big Campaign at this time alerting the public about the Extreme DANGERS of these two products as well as the other ones that Dr. Monte listed! As it is, everything is being kept Hush, Hush while the big manufacturing companies are making huge profits by adding these two very dangerous ingredients to the food supply Americans consume on an almost daily basis! There ought to be a LAW against this! It is Endangering Our Health! I always check EACH and EVERY label on any food item I come across to see if they carry any dangerous ingredients including Aspartame and High Fructose Syrup. You should too for your Health's sake and that of your family!

      February 10, 2011 at 20:50 | Report abuse |
  20. Shelia Kennison, Ph.D.

    Someone needs to call the research police. This study is meaningless. It has not been peer-reviewed. In fact, the number of studies presented at conferences that go on to be published in peer-reviewed journals is surprisingly small. This study will have a difficult time convincing peer reviewers of the central claims, because the researchers did not control for important extraneous variables, the study's results are truly uninterpretable, with any level of certainty. It is truly terrible that the media latches on to bad research to frighten the public needlessly. These types of articles is part of the reason why mainstream Americans mistrust science and tend to ignore good advice when it IS supported by solid science.

    February 10, 2011 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jaime Vasquez

    Send to mom. Love you. Stop drinking this stuff. JV

    February 10, 2011 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Willow

    One has to wonder if this study took into account all the people who get burgers and fries, and then add the diet soda.

    February 10, 2011 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Granite Sentry

    Who drinks the nasty stuff anyway? Go for the real thing. A post on this foolishness at http://www.granitesentry.com.

    February 10, 2011 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Ichi

    Too much of ANYTHING is a bad thing. As long as you drink/eat things in moderation, you'll be fine.

    February 10, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. nutmeg

    Does anyone not find all this debate ridiculous? These are chemicals. Bottom line, it's not good for you. Looking to stay healthy, steer clear. Although if you love your diet drink it's probably not gonna kill you if you have a diet pop once in awhile.

    February 10, 2011 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. rob

    This might be the most meaningless study I have ever seen. There was no controlling for factors that are paramount to stroke development, like positive family history of a stroke,vascular disease or MI as well as weight gain throughout the study. Hypertension is the most important cause of stroke in otherwise healthy individuals, and weight gain, as well as a family history of hypertension could explain this in and of itself. Granted there are likely other factors at play, and excessive consumption of anything in high enough amounts isn't healthy (even eating only carrots could lead to Vitamin A toxicity). It is carless of CNN to post an article like this with 0 scientific usability. In addition there is soo much misinformation being thrown around in this comment section it is laughable. Tasting something sweet that doesn't raise glucose level (ie artificial sweetener) causes increased insulin release? Not in anyone that lives on earth. Also the amount of anecdotal evidence people claim as actual evidence just shows how moronic some people are. Just because you drank 30 Diet cokes a day and you are healthy, or because your mom drank 1 Diet soda a day every day of her life and she is now in a nursing home suffering from dementia in now way shape or form either proves or disproves that there is a link between diet drinks and health problems. And for you clowns who think that because it happened to you or someone you know it must be evidence of the existence of a link, every disease brought up so far was around prior to the development of artificial sweeteners..

    February 10, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • good-grief

      Thank you, Rob. Well said! I was more succinct (see below) but you gave the pertinent details.

      February 10, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse |
  27. good-grief

    Can you say, "Junk Science," boys and girls? I knew you could.

    February 10, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. gmitch135

    If diet soda doesn't kill me, something else will.

    February 10, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. David Goren

    Why do people eat bacon cheeseburgers with fries, and then drink a diet soda? What's the point?

    How about water?

    February 10, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Me

    @ EricLr
    Yes the ENTIRE medical profession is filled with nothing but conspiracy practicing 'Evil Doers' Out to ruin all our fun. You figured us out! The jig is up! I repeat the jig is up! Opps I meant 'the swallow flies at midnight' 'abandon ship' EricLr or the magic talking cricket inside his head has figured us out & told everyone destroy all evidence! Run!

    February 10, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. me

    have you ever noticed only fat people drink diet beverages. Maybe that is why they have a higher risk of stroke.....just saying

    February 10, 2011 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • don

      Very true. They don't seem to mention that though, do they?

      February 10, 2011 at 22:05 | Report abuse |
    • Brett 62

      I am considered a health weight. 140 lbs, 5'8". Until my stroke I drank diet soda daily to PREVENT from getting fat. It worked! Until I had a stoke, that is...

      February 13, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse |
  32. don

    How is diet soda the contribute to strokes? Scientists find things to blame for diseases to try and turn people from reality. The reality is, you can get any disease at anytime regardless of what you consume or your daily living program. Consuming these so-called dangerous products are not going to increase your risk of disease.

    February 10, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. jesse

    Although i do think there are some things about diet soda that make it particularly unhealthy, even more so than naturally sweetened sodas; this is a perfect example of third-cause fallacy. Whoever conducted this "experiment" failed to follow the scientific method, or there could be faulty journalism. Maybe confirmation bias? idk "people who drink diet soda may have a much higher risk of vascular events compared to those who don't drink soda"

    February 10, 2011 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Nancy

    diet anything is the worst

    February 10, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. From /b/

    Monster energy drink is ran my Liberals and Comunist
    any one agre?

    February 11, 2011 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Dan

    Everyone say to themselves, Correlation does not prove Causation.

    February 11, 2011 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sandy

    Here's what I want to know: did they correlate this with calcium consumption? I seem to remember that dairy products are protective of cardiovascular health. They do, however, have calories, and many dieters skip any beverages with calories, even milk. The main story may be the old one (dairy products are good) rather than the sensational correlation with diet soda.

    February 11, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Stan

    74 BILLION!!!!! That is a lot of bread. If everyone stopped drinking sodas (Like I have for the last 44 years. I am 64 now.) and drank water with a little organic fresh squezed lemon or lime juice and gave there saved money to whatever this place (earth) would be a better place, not to mention all those empty cans and bottles.

    February 11, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. derek

    of course there is scientific evidence that it is completely linked. Its called aspertame. Its GENETICALLY MODIFIED E-COLI Bacteria! they test it on rats all the time and they know damn well that it not only causes strokes, but sterility as well. Everyone thinks this is a conspiracy but if people would look it up instead of speculating, they would see its cold hard fact. I dont even know why this is allowed. Very very sad. check out this site i just looked up aspertame and found http://www.aspertamekills.com. Sometimes the facts that we should know about are the ones that we're for the most part, ignorant about.

    February 11, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • h

      Actually it's worse than that. It's the EXCREMENT of GENETICALLY MODIFIED E-COLI Bacteria.

      March 4, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
  40. Bongo

    You are thirsty... so drink plain old water. Why does there need to be taste sensation every time you take in fluid? I drink soda maybe once a month.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Vera

    Don't forget to exercise to reduce your risk of cancer!

    February 11, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Sarah

    It is so sad that because of the wealth behind it, no one will admit aspartame is killing people. I can speak from personal experience. All of my systems were going haywire...heart palpitations (cardio), shortness of breath (cardio/pulminary), severe weak trembles (endo-as if I had hypoglycemia), upset stomach with overly excessive gas (gastro), extreme loss of memory to the point I could not complete a sentence (neuro) but it was the stomach gas that helped me find my problem. I knew I had to be doing something consistently every day that was causing it and the only thing was diet cokes, so I decided to research to see if there was any link between the two. The information I found on aspartame was unreal...fit all of the symptoms I was having. I found the "History of Aspartame" and the money behind this junk is mind boggling therefore it will never be said that it is bad. I did stop immediately and am completely well, all symptoms are gone. So take heed and be aware.

    February 12, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brett 62

      The diet soda I drink contains Splenda and not Aspartame.

      February 13, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
  43. Brett 62

    I had a stroke two years ago when I was 47. It was of "Unknown Causes." I am otherwise healthy. I was in the best physical shape of my life. I had eaten healthy and worked-out 4-times a week for 10 years. I had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and low tri-g's. Drank 3 glasses of red wine a week. 5'8", 140 lbs.

    BUT, I drank at least one - and frequently two or three diet sodas a week since I was about 25 years old.

    I've been to five stroke specialists and nobody knows what caused it. I go to another specialist next month at the University of Miami. Could it be related to diet soda?

    – Brett
    email: b999mail-aquamarine[at]yahoo[dot]com

    February 13, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Charles Rogers

    My aunt is 113 yrs old. She has never drunk a soda or an alcoholic drink. After she said that, I knew I would never live anywhere near that long!!!

    February 20, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. LisaGeng

    The research for this study was mainly with individual­s around 69 years old. Perhaps the same would apply to younger participan­ts; doubtful however because while soda and even diet soda have been part of our culture for decades -there has been a dramatic rise in strokes in CHILDREN from 5 years old up to adults aged 44 years old in about the past decade and in the same time period actually a DECREASE in strokes in the population 45 years old plus­. So while I don't encourage or want to defend junk food nation -clearly we can't blame something that has been around for half a century or more as our society was obese a decade ago and according to JAMA not much different today in numbers. We should examine new variables. I wrote a blog on this at PursuitofR­esearch.or­g http://pur­suitofrese­arch.org/2­011/02/11/­should-we-­blame-soda­-or-energy­-drinks-fo­r-the-sudd­en-rise-of­-strokes-i­n-children­/ and I believe we need to examine energy drinks as I find their introducti­on into the US in 1997 and the almost 50% rise in strokes in younger individual­s in the past decade or so, too coincident­al for comfort. Besides -research has already linked them to strokes. While it's important to be concerned about senior's diet soda intake -I believe that the media focus should at least be as well on what is going on with our children! A rise in strokes in children and barely a peep about it?!

    March 3, 2011 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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