Diet drinks may be just as bad for your health as full-sugar versions

If you have been opting for diet drinks as a healthier alternative to sugary drinks, you may want to reconsider.

A 10-year study based on more than 104,000 people has revealed artificially sweetened beverages — such as diet soft drinks, juice or coffees — could be just as bad for your heart as the full-sugar version.

The ongoing online study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Tuesday, suggested participants who consumed sugary beverages had a higher risk of cardiovascular illness.

While it may not come as a surprise to some, considering sugar is linked to a host of health problems, it also discovered participants who consumed low, or no-calorie versions of sweet drinks also had a high chance of experiencing cardiovascular disease.

The scientists from Paris’ Sorbonne University who headed the study asked the 104,760 participants to fill in three daily diet diaries every six months.

They were then split into three groups depending on their consumption of sweetened beverages — non-consumers, low consumers and high consumers.

It found that consumers of both sugary and artificially sweetened drinks (containing substances like aspartame, stevia, and sucralose) are up to 20 per cent more likely to suffer heart disease, stroke or heart attacks than those who avoid consuming sweetened beverages altogether.

To be considered a sugary drink, the sugar content equalled or exceeded 5 per cent whereas a sub-5 percentage and the presence of “non-nutritive sweeteners” was classified as an artificially-sweetened beverage.

“Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks, and these data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labelling and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages,” lead researcher Eloi Chazelas, PhD student at the University of Paris North, said in a press release.

When it comes to diet drinks, which can contain artificial sweeteners, they are often advertised to people wanting to lose weight as a way to cut calories.

And while the study doesn’t directly establish that artificial sweeteners increase heart disease risk, experts are concerned about its growing health risks.

“Higher intakes of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages were associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, suggesting that artificial sweeteners might not be a healthy substitute for sugary drinks,” Chazelas said.

Last year, data from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association showed that risk of early death is 16 per cent higher for those who consume diet drinks, compared to those who don’t.

Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study told CNN: “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet.

“Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”

Mossavar-Rahmani did stress while their findings suggested a link, they couldn’t prove diet drinks cause stroke and heart problems.

The research was published in the medical journal Stroke on February 14, 2019 and included data from a variety of different women who were tracked for an average of 12 years.

Rethink Sugary Drinks use World Health Organisation guidelines for Australians, advising adults and children limit their daily intake of fizzy drinks — particularly the ones with sugar.

There have been health concerns surrounding soft drinks for many years.

Last year the Cancer Council urged Aussies to ditch sugary drinks after highlighting a link between obesity and 13 different types of cancer.

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