Diet Drinks May Be Linked To Heart Attack In Older Women
March 31, 2014

Relationship Found Between Diet Drinks And Poor Cardiovascular Health In Older Women

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Diet drinks may appeal to a woman’s healthier sensibilities – but according to a new study, healthy postmenopausal women who consume two or more diet fruit or diet soda beverages a day might be more likely to have a heart attack.

Presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, DC this past weekend, the new study found a 30 percent increase in the likelihood of suffering a cardiovascular event and 50 percent higher chance of dying from related diseases.

"Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome," said study team leader Dr. Ankur Vyas, cardiovascular disease research fellow at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "We were interested in this research because there was a relative lack of data about diet drinks and cardiovascular outcomes and mortality."

The study, a part of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, was based on a survey given to nearly 60,000 participants that asked participants to report their diet drink intake habits over the previous three months.

A ‘drink’ in the study was considered a 12-ounce beverage and included both diet sodas and diet fruit drinks. The women were categorized into four distinct groups: two or more drinks per day, five to seven drinks weekly, one to four diet drinks weekly and zero to three diet drinks per month.

After an average follow-up time of 8.7 years, the main outcome – a sum of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular death – took place in 8.5 percent of the women ingesting two or more diet drinks daily compared to 6.9 percent in the five-to-seven diet drinks per week cohort; 6.8 percent in the one-to-four drinks per week group; and 7.2 percent in the zero-to-three per month group.

The relationship remained even after scientists considered demographic and other cardiovascular risk factors – such as body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, diet, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. Women who reported two or more diet drinks daily were found to be younger and more likely to be smokers. They also had a greater prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and higher body mass index, the researchers said.

Vyas pointed out that his team only found a relationship between diet drinks and poor cardiovascular health – not a cause-and-effect relationship.

"We only found an association, so we can't say that diet drinks cause these problems," Vyas said. He added that there could be something about people who drink more diet drinks that could explain the connection.

"It's too soon to tell people to change their behavior based on this study; however, based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship, if one truly exists," Vyas said. "This could have major public health implications."