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Heart Health

Drinking Diet and Sugar-Free Soda Is Linked to Serious Heart Problems

It may appear healthier than it's sugary counterpart, but doctors and researchers say "beware."

Diet soda is a smart choice for those seeking a fizzy sip without so much sugar. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually good for us. A recent study claims that calorie-free sodas could be just as bad for our heart health as regular soda.

According to the American College of Cardiology, French researchers observed over 100,000 participants between 2009 and 2019. They were split into three groups: Those who don’t drink any soda, those who drink either diet or regular soda every now and then, and those who drink diet and regular soda frequently. Their results showed that regardless of whether the soda used artificial sweeteners or sugar, drinking them often led to a significantly higher risk of cardiac issues like strokes and heart attacks. For reference, the “high” level of each ranged from just two and a half to six ounces of soda per day.

“Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks,” Eloi Chazelas, a PhD student and co-author of the study explained. “The data provides additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labeling, and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.”

The study demonstrates that while diet drinks can seem like the better choice, they are linked to serious health issues. Those trying to boost their heart health by losing weight or managing their blood sugar levels should carefully consider their soda intake — and whether it’s worth the risk.

The research is ongoing, and scientists continue to observe the study’s participants to get a clearer picture of the soda and heart health connection. This is just the latest in several recent studies highlighting the troubling side effects of diet soda. CNN pointed out a 2019 study that showed frequent consumption of artificially sweetened beverage increased the risk of clot-based strokes, heart attacks, and early death in women over 50 — even for those without any previous heart health issues.

The French study doesn’t place the blame directly on the artificial sweeteners; rather, it indicates that there is a link between the consumption and cardiac issues. Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, begs to differ. He told US News & World Report that the diet sodas can trigger an insulin response, which then messes with our blood sugar balance and cause cardiac problems. “At the end of the day, the best calorie-free beverage is water,” Dr. Freeman advised.

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