Attention Women: Ditch the Diet Soda or Die

According to national surveys, roughly one in five people in the U.S. consume diet drinks on any given day. While a diet soda can offer sweet-tasting, bubbly refreshment, women concerned about their health may want to reconsider before popping a diet soda top. A recent study conducted over a period of ten years confirmed that consumption of diet soda sweetened with aspartame may raise risks for heart attack and death. In this article, we will look at this alarming scientific study and discuss healthy diet soda alternatives such as fruit powder drinks and fruit juice.

Led by Ankur Vyas, MD, of the University of Iowa, the study examined 59,614 subjects participating in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study with an average age of 63 and no history of cardiovascular disease. The subjects completed a questionnaire regarding consumption of food and beverages, with emphasis on diet sodas and diet fruit drinks.

Follow up after an average of 8.7 years showed that 8.5 percent of the subjects who drank two or more diet drinks daily experienced cardiovascular problems, compared to 6.9 percent who drank five to seven drinks per week, 6.8 percent who drank four or fewer drinks per week, and 7.2 percent who drank little or no diet soda at all.

What the numbers boil down to is that subjects who drank two or more diet drinks daily were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 50 percent more likely to die from related cardiovascular disease, than women who rarely drank diet soda.

"Our study suggests an association between higher diet drink consumption and mortality," said Dr. Vyas. However, he added that the risk was not extreme. Dr. Vyas further noted that subjects who consumed the most diet sodas were also more likely to be overweight, smoke cigarettes, and suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure.

Paid lobbyists on behalf of the American Beverage Association reaffirmed this point in a response prepared after the study which stated that due to other risk factors for diet soda drinkers, "it is impossible to attribute their cardiovascular health issues to their diet beverage intake."

While risks for cardiovascular events and death aren't immediately looming, this doesn't discount the other health risks attributed to aspartame. Previous research has shown that artificially sweetened sodas can help people avoid sugary sodas, but they do not help consumers lose weight. Further, sodas containing aspartame might be even more harmful than sugary types.

Aspartame is a synthetic sweetener made in the laboratory from the byproducts of genetically-engineered bacteria. As an ingredient in diet soda, aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde, methanol, and other chemical compounds. Oxidation transforms the formaldehyde into formic acid during digestion, which is a chemical known to be toxic to mammals

Of all reported adverse reactions to food additives in the U. S., 75 percent are credited to aspartame. Over 90 documented reactions include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vision problems, memory loss, rashes, and seizures. What's more, medical conditions that are reportedly worsened with the consumption of aspartame include brain tumors, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.

Fortunately, there are many healthy alternatives to diet sodas. Fruit powder drinks and fruit juice mixed with seltzer water creates a bubbly, healthy drink; and sliced oranges, lemons, limes, or strawberries added to a pitcher of ice water also make a refreshing beverage. Allow the pitcher to sit in the refrigerator for several hours to infuse fruity flavors, and sprinkle in all-natural stevia to add zero-calorie sweetness. Other healthy alternatives to diet soda include vegetable juice, herbal tea, and almond milk.

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