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Diet soda linked to heart attack and strokeAs most people who know me could tell you, I’m a pretty big fan of Diet Coke. And by fan, I mean full-fledged addict. However, due to the possible risks some researchers associate with artificial sweeteners, as well as diet soda’s high sodium content, I’ve always suspected that it probably wasn’t the best thing to consume in large quantities. So I’ve made numerous attempts over the years to cut back or quit, with some success (one time I stopped drinking it for close to a year!), but I always wind up falling off the wagon eventually; all it takes is one sip to get right back into a three-can-a-day habit. However, a recent study might have finally found the research necessary to convince me to quit for good.

Adults who drank diet soda every day have a 61 percent higher risk for heart attack and stroke compared to those who avoided diet drinks altogether, finds new research by Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Gardener followed over 2,500 New Yorkers for nine years, and kept tabs on their diets, exercise, and cigarette and alcohol consumption. Subjects were also given physical check-ups to measure other factors that could increase their risk for heart attack and stroke, like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Still, the risks associated with diet sodas existed even when these factors were taken into account. There was no increased risk in regular soda drinkers.

Researchers aren’t sure yet whether this means there’s actually something in diet soda that could cause clogged arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The increased risk could stem from people replacing calories saved from drinking diet sodas with fattier, less-healthy choices, Gardener said at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference last month.

And nobody’s suggesting people cut out diet soda just yet. “I don’t think that anyone should be changing their behaviors based on one study,” she said. “Hopefully this will motivate other researchers to do more studies.” Though that may come as a relief for addicts like myself, Gardener’s research does serve as a reminder that it wouldn’t hurt to try cutting back on that Magical Elixir of Life, as I like to call it. So back on the wagon I go… Again.

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