Link Between Diet Soda and Heart Disease Is Not Absolute
It's all over the news today: A study that appears to link drinking diet soda with heart disease risk. Crack open your favorite diet cola, if you like, have a seat. Let's discuss this one.
Bottom line first
A report published in the journal Circulation finds a possible link between soft drink consumption and a cluster of conditions known as metabolic syndrome--including high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, a big waist, high triglycerides (a blood fat) and low HDL (good) cholesterol. The link appeared to hold up whether people drank regular or diet soft drinks. Metabolic syndrome is believed to be a risk factor for heart disease.
This study in 50 words or less
Researchers collected food questionnaires from about 6,000 middle-aged people. Over several years they gathered data from them about the components of metabolic syndrome. Subjects who drank less than one soda per day were about half as likely to develop metabolic syndrome as those who drank more than one.
But wait. . .
Previous studies have suggested (but not proven) that drinking soda may be a marker for a number of factors this study didn't fully account for:
- an unhealthy lifestyle generally (some of which was controlled for in this study)
- an increased taste for sweet foods triggered by sweet-tasting beverages, regardless of the source of the sweetness (this is only a hypthesis)
- lower economic status (Soda is cheaper than many healthier beverages, meaning people with less money--whom other studies have suggested are at higher risk for heart disease--are more likely to drink them.)
Other researchers have suggested that drinking diet soda is a marker for a desire to lose weight, which could explain why those who drink diet soda appear to be at elevated risk of metabolic syndrome.
So what are you going to do about it?
There is a mound of evidence that a healthy diet, regular exercise and caloric balance (eating no more than you burn each day) reduce incidence of all components of metabolic syndrome. That's the lifestyle "best practice" to focus on.
You may want to use this report as a reason to look at the liquid part of your daily nutrition. Many health professionals recommend about eight 8-oz. servings of water per day, or at least enough so your urine is light yellow. That's another best practice to consider adopting.
Our nutriton and exercise center, hosted by registered dietician Heather Reese and Foodfit.com founder Ellen Haas, is full of useful information and answers to your questions about weight control and healthy eating.
In our heart center you can find some excellent background information on metabolic syndrome and heart disease risk.