From Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Diet fizzy drinks linked to increase in heart attack and stroke

'Healthy' alternative poses health risk

People who want to change to a healthier diet or lose weight often switch to diet versions of their favourite fizzy drink. But new research suggests that these substitutes may raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. when compared to people who do not take fizzy drinks.

The study, carried out by scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, looked at over 2,500 participants in a larger US health research programme. The subjects were ranked into 7 different groups based on the amount of diet and non-diet fizzy drinks that they consumed.

By following up with the groups over a nearly 9 year period, researchers found that people who drank diet sodas every day had a 61 per cent increased risk of vascular problems compared to those who drank no fizzy drinks.

Commenting on the results, lead author Hannah Gardener said: "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."

Salt also implicated

Another study based on the same programme looked at the effect of salt intake on the risk of stroke. It found that 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 fact stroke risk, independent of high blood pressure, increased 16 percent for every 500 mg of sodium consumed a day, scientists calculated.

Reviewing the results, Ms Gardener called on people to limit their salt intake: "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."

The results are presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2011.

This article was published on Thu 10 February 2011