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Studies Link Diet Soda, Sodium Intake To Stroke Risk

February 11, 2011

UPDATED

Two different studies presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference on Wednesday have linked both diet soda and salty foods to an increased risk of stroke and other vascular events.

The Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), a study that included subjects from various ethnic groups in Manhattan, revealed that those who consumed diet sodas on a daily basis had a 61% higher chance of experiencing vascular events than those who completely abstained from consuming the carbonated beverages in question.

“If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes,” Hannah Gardener, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said in a statement at the conference.

A separate presentation, which used 2,657 different participants in the NOMAS study as the basis for its research, linked high sodium intake to an increase in a specific form of stroke that cuts blood flow to the brain. In the study, people who reported eating in excess of 4,000mg of salt per day were twice as likely to suffer an ischemic stroke that those who limited daily sodium intake to 1,500mg or less.

According to the press release, “In the sodium research, 187 ischemic strokes were reported during 9.7 years of follow-up. Stroke risk, independent of hypertension, increased 16 percent for every 500 mg of sodium consumed a day, the scientists calculated. Those figures included adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, alcohol use, exercise, daily caloric intake, smoking status, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and previous heart disease.”

“The take-home message is that high sodium intake is a risk factor for ischemic stroke among people with hypertension as well as among those without hypertension, underscoring the importance of limiting consumption of high sodium foods for stroke prevention,” Gardener added.

However, some experts are saying that the study should be taken with, for lack of a better term, a grain of salt. In fact, the Calorie Control Council, non-profit organization that represents the low-calorie food and beverage industry, released a statement Thursday calling the study “critically flawed.”

“The findings are so speculative and preliminary at this point that they should be considered with extreme caution. In fact, the study has not been peer reviewed by any independent scientists and has not been published in a scientific journal,” Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian representing the Council, said in a statement.
“I have to say this is one of the worst studies I’ve seen capturing headlines in a long time,” Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor at ABC News, added during a February 10 interview on that network’s Good Morning America television program. “It’s bad because of the science, but it’s also bad because of the behavior that it can induce and the fear that people have. I don’t think people should change behavior based on this study.”

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