Artificially sweetened drinks: No heart health advantage?

Research we're watching

Published: January, 2021

Think you're doing your heart a favor by drinking diet instead of regular soda? That may be wishful thinking, according to a research letter published Nov. 3, 2020, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers studied nearly 105,000 people who filled out three 24-hour dietary recall surveys every six months. During a 10-year follow-up, researchers tracked the participants' cardiovascular health.

Compared with people who drank neither sugary drinks nor artificially sweetened beverages, those who drank higher amounts of either type of beverage had a higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular problem. "High" intake wasn't even that high: for both sugared and artificially sweetened drinks, the median intake per day was around 6 ounces, or about half a can of soda.

Although researchers accounted for many confounding factors (such as smoking, diabetes, and a family history of heart disease), the findings can't prove a causal link between either beverage type and heart disease. But they cast doubt on the notion that sugar substitutes are safer for the heart than regular sugar.

Image: © Thomas Faull/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.