Harvard Health Letter

Do you really need that diet soda?

Research connects the drinks to higher heart risks.

You may think you're doing yourself a favor by opting for an ice-cold diet soda every afternoon instead of the sugar-sweetened version and all the calories that go with it. Not so fast: recent research suggests that diet sodas may also lead to problems.

In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers found that people who drank diet sodas daily were at a higher risk for vascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, compared with those who drank fewer diet sodas or even those who drank regular sugar-sweetened sodas.

The results of the study do not necessarily mean that drinking diet sodas causes vascular disease. Rather, the study suggests people who drink diet sodas may also be consuming other foods and drinks that contain lots of sweet but empty calories. Drinking diet beverages may "condition the human taste buds to crave very sweet foods," says Dr. Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

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