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Diet Drinks Could Lead to Heart Problems for Older Women

Update Date: Mar 29, 2014 10:25 PM EDT

Even though diet beverages might help people cut down on their calorie consumption, several studies have tied diet drinks to negative health conditions. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of drinking too many diet drinks on postmenopausal women. The researchers discovered that older women who drink two or more diet beverages a day have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke or other heart problems.

"Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome," said lead investigator Ankur Vyas, M.D., fellow, Cardiovascular Diseases, 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."

For this study, the researchers examined the relationship between the intake of diet drinks and cardiovascular risk factors in 59,614 women taken from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Diet drink intake was collected using a questionnaire that asked women for the number of diet drinks they have had over the past three months. The researchers grouped the women into four groups based on their consumption level. The groups were two or more diet drinks per day, five to seven drinks per week, one to four drinks per week, and zero to three drinks per month.

The researchers examined the women's heart health after an average of 8.7 years. 8.5 percent of the women in the two or more drinks per day group suffered from incidents such as, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular death. The incidence rates were 6.9 percent in the five-to-seven drinks per week group, 6.8 in the one to four drinks per week group, and 7.2 percent in the zero to three drinks per month group.

"We only found an association, so we can't say that diet drinks cause these problems," Vyas said. "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. This could have major public health implications."

The study, "Diet Drink Consumption and the Risk of Cardiovascular Events: A Report from the Women's Health Initiative," will be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

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