A recent study conducted at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reveals that consuming diet soda may be associated with a significant increased risk of stroke or other vascular events. The soda habits of 2,564 individuals enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS, a research study of stroke and stroke risk factors in the Northern Manhattan community) were evaluated over a nine-year period to determine whether or not there was an association with an increased risk of stroke. Even after accounting for factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and diet, the researchers found that compared to those who did not drink any soda, the diet soda drinkers were 48 percent more likely to suffer from a vascular event.
This recent news is alarming. The primary reason that most people swap their calorie and sugar-laden soda is their health. My family made the switch from regular soda to diet soda over a decade ago when my father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. As a child, a liter of Diet Pepsi was always available for us to drink from. As we became older and were allowed more freedom in our beverage choices, diet soda steadily began to replace milk and water at the dinner table. Now that I am a busy graduate student, a can of Diet Coke from the nearby vending machine is my caffeinated post-coffee crutch to get me through a long afternoon. I drink several cans of Diet Coke a week, and sometimes I will indulge in multiple cans of diet soda a day.
Artery and heart disease runs in my family. I eat right and exercise several times a week in order to maintain my health. Although I find this study somewhat alarming, it is unlikely that I will cut out drinking diet soda for the rest of my life. However, I will take this study as a reminder that all things are best in moderation. Instead of reaching for an afternoon soda, perhaps it would be best to down a bottle of water instead. Regardless of whether or not consuming diet soda will lead to an increase in your risk of stroke, it is important to know that soft drinks contain large quantities of phosphorous, which strips protective calcium from your bones when excreted. One recent study even implicated that the high levels of phosphate in sodas and processed foods accelerate the aging process in mice. In light of this study, it should raise concern over the use of artificial sweeteners in the American diet. More information in the connection between artificial sweeteners and vascular disease would greatly benefit the health and well-being of diabetics who are currently reliant to get their sweet-tooth fix with these products.