Diet Drinks Raise Risk for Heart Attack and Stroke

Try reaching for the all-natural, nearly-zero calorie beverages you can make yourself.

By Jessica Firger

Put down that zero-calorie beverage right now!

A new study finds diet drinks are associated with higher risk for stroke and heart attack. These findings add to the mounting evidence that while diet beverages don’t contribute to your daily calorie intake, they are detrimental to your health and significantly increase your risk for fatal chronic diseases.

The study, published in the journal Stroke, is based on data from self-reported questionnaires of 81,714 women aged 50 to 79 who took part in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. The researchers compared the health of women who consumed diet drinks less than once a week or not at all, to women who drank two or more diet beverages per week. These beverages included popular low and zero-calorie colas, sodas and fruit-flavored drinks.

The researchers found that women who frequently consumed these beverages had a 23 percent higher risk for stroke and a 29 percent higher risk for heart disease. They were also 16 percent more likely to die from any medical cause, meaning these drinks increased likelihood of premature death.

The risk for stroke and heart attack among women who frequently drink diet beverages appeared to be higher among African-American women and women who were obese.

Prior research suggests that in addition to stroke and heart attack, diet beverages are also associated with type 2 diabetes, dementia and metabolic syndrome. Researchers can’t say for sure whether it’s the artificial sweeteners that caused these diseases or some other lifestyle factors.

It’s important to note that these findings don’t indicate that you should instead return to drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. It’s well established that high-calorie drinks made from refined sugar raise risk for chronic diseases including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

The good news is that you’re not destined to only drink bland water (though it’s probably the best and most important beverage to consume). Here are a few tricks to try: add fresh berries and lemon to your seltzer for a pleasant thirst-quencher, or brew some herbal tea, add fresh mint, and then put it on ice.


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Forgive yourself, and start walking toward a healthier you.

For those of you who have put on the Pandemic Pounds or added several new COVID Curves, you are not alone. Alarmingly, the American Psychological Association has recently published that almost half of all adults in their survey now have a larger physique. In fact, 42% of people reported gaining roughly 15 pounds (the average published was surprisingly 29 pounds but that included outliers) over the past year. Interestingly, 20% of adults in this survey lost about 12 pounds (I am surely not in this group). Clearly, there is a relationship between stress and weight change. In addition, one in four adults disclosed an increase in alcohol consumption, and 67% of participants distressingly revealed that they have new sleeping patterns.

This past year has brought about what has been called the 'new normal.' Social isolation and inactivity due to quarantining and remote working have sadly contributed to the decline in many people's mental and physical health, as demonstrated by the widespread changes in people's weight, alcohol consumption, and sleeping patterns. Gym closures, frequent ordering of unhealthy takeout, and increased time at home cooking and devouring comfort foods have had a perceptible impact. In addition, many people have delayed routine medical care and screening tests over fear of contracting Covid-19 during these visits. Unfortunately, the 'new normal' has now placed too many people at risk for serious health consequences, including heart attacks and strokes.

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