The 2011 International Stroke Conference
, sponsored by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, was held Feb. 9 - 11 in Los Angeles, Calif.
One of the biggest and most controversial findings to come out of the conference was the news that drinking diet soda may be linked to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular events.
“According to a study of more than 2,500 people presented today as a poster at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles," reports ABC News Health
, “people who drank diet soda daily had a 61 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who drank no soda, even when accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and calories consumed per day.”
As can be heard in the video, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser called it a "bad" study and went on to say, "This study has major flaws and should not change anyone's diet soda consumption."
As reported in The Clinical Advisor
, there has been a "chorus of criticism" from health experts regarding the study, including from Jennifer K. Cleary, APN, C-NP, of the Lipid Disorders and Metabolic Syndrome Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who was quoted as saying, “There are a lot of factors that were not taken into consideration, so we can't really assume that there is a causal relationship between diet soda and stroke.”
However, researchers concede that their results are preliminary. Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Fla., said in a news release
, “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.”
For this report, I sought out diet soda drinkers who drink at least one diet soda per day and asked them to comment on the following: Should the findings of this research be proved valid, would you totally stop drinking, or reduce your consumption of, diet sodas?
Juli Silva, a resident of Minnesota, told me that she drinks about 1-3 diet sodas per day. "I drink diet soda because I don't like the 'sugar' in regular sodas," Silva said. "I do like the taste better, as well."
If the findings of the research are confirmed, Silva said:
"The research would have to be very convincing. I think there is too much research around that make us afraid of our own shadow's now. Unless there was solid proof and evidence, I would probably not put much weight into this research either. I have heard for years that the artificial sweeteners are bad for you. I tend to agree with this. I would like to quit drinking pop altogether, and I have at times, but end up drinking it again."
Further, Silva added, "I would reduce the consumption of the soda. I work early mornings and feel the need for a caffeine fix. I am not much of a coffee drinker. I will challenge myself to give it another try to give it up!"
Arkansas resident Frank Bailey said that he was drinking six diet sodas but is now down to about two. "I prefer the taste of diet," said Bailey. "Regular is too sweet."
Bailey said that he has been reducing his consumption of diet sodas even before being made aware of the findings of this study. Bailey said, "I have reduced my consumption of diet soda. When I was in graduate school I had stopped drinking diet soda completely and was drinking flavored water."
He went on to say that, if the findings of the study were proved to be valid, he would stop drinking diet sodas.
A teacher and native of Arkansas, Marla Burger, and I share the same sentiment about diet sodas, though we prefer different brands. Burger said, "I'm convinced that Diet Coke is one of the 4 basic food groups." The diet soda this reporter consumes tastes just like the original.
Burger said she drinks three or four diet sodas per day, but "less on days I am not at school." However, she stated, "If the research was valid, I would totally quit if I could come up with a quick substitute. For me, it's the caffeine I crave."
Given that this study indicates a possible link between diet soda consumption and risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular events, the perspective of Colorado resident Jeana Cole is enlightening.
Cole has coronary artery disease and had a heart attack at the age of 44. Cole said she drinks, on average, one diet soda per day. "I only drink diet," Cole said. "I like the taste better, not as sweet and syrupy."
If the findings of this study were confirmed, Cole said, "I would cut down maybe to a couple a week but I wouldn't totally stop drinking diet soda. I believe in being healthy but I also believe in being happy! These days it seems like no matter what you eat or drink someone will say it's linked to some disease."
Cole added, "My dad had his first [heart attack] at 39 and his brothers also had heart attacks in their 30s and 40s and I'm sure none of them drank diet sodas. I think a lot of diseases have to do with genes, not what you eat or do."