Diet sodas may have fewer calories for your waistline, but they don’t reduce your risk of heart problems and even stroke in actuality. In a new Manhattan Study (NOMAS) presented at this week’s American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, states that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61% higher risk of vascular events than those who reported no soda drinking.

Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine in Miami comments:

“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. 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.”

People who consumed more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium had more than double the risk of stroke compared to those consuming less than 1,500 mg per day.

In the study started in 1993, researchers asked subjects of 63% women and 21% male, 24% African American and 53% Hispanic to report how much and what kind of soda they drank. Seven categories emerged: no soda (meaning less than one soda of any kind per month); moderate regular soda only (between one per month and six per week), daily regular soda (at least one per day); moderate diet soda only; daily diet soda only; and two groups of people who drink both types: moderate diet and any regular, and daily diet with any regular.

In almost 10 full years of follow up, 187 ischemic strokes were reported. Researchers calculated that stroke risk, independent of hypertension, increased 16% for every 500 mg of sodium consumed per day.

Five hundred and fifty nine vascular events were reported in 9.3 years of observation. Researchers accounted for participants’ age, sex, race or ethnicity, smoking status, exercise, alcohol consumption and daily caloric intake.

Only a third of participants met the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend daily sodium intake fall below 2,300 mg, or about a teaspoon of salt. Average intake among all soda drinkers was 3,031 milligrams.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack states:

“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and one in three children are overweight or obese and this is a crisis we can no longer ignore. These new and improved dietary recommendations give individuals the information to make thoughtful choices of healthier foods in the right portions and to complement those choices with physical activity. The bottom line is that most Americans need to trim our waistlines to reduce the risk of development diet-related chronic disease. Improving our eating habits is not only good for every individual and family, but also for our country.”

Source: American Heart Association

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.