In older women, diet drink consumption is linked to higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems, reveals study.
"Compared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consumed two or more a day were 30 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease," explained Ankur Vyas, fellow, cardiovascular diseases at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Vyas and his team analysed diet drink intake and cardiovascular risk factors from 59,614 participants in the women's health initiative observational study -- the largest study to look at the relationship between diet drink consumption, cardiac events and death in the US.
The researchers divided the women into four consumption groups: two or more diet drinks a day, five to seven diet drinks per week, one to four diet drinks per week, and zero to three diet drinks per month.
"Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome," Vyas added.
After an average follow-up of 8.7 years, the researchers found that various heart problems occurred in 8.5 percent of the women consuming two or more diet drinks a day.
The results were 6.9 percent in the five to seven diet drinks per week group; 6.8 percent in the one to four drinks per week group; and 7.2 percent in the zero to three per month group.
The association between diet drinks and cardiovascular problems raises more questions than it answers, and should stimulate further research, Vyas noted.
"We only found an association, so we can't say that diet drinks cause these problems," Vyas said, adding that there may be other factors about people who drink more diet drinks that could explain the connection.
Vyas cautions that this particular study only applies to postmenopausal women.
Previous studies have found artificially sweetened drinks to be associated with weight gain in adults and teenagers, and appear to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, which makes both diabetes and heart disease more likely.