Can Diet Coke Cause Heart Disease?

July 25, 2007

212693807.jpgI usually allow my patients to drink soda as long as it is a “diet” or “light” soda…meaning, no sugar added but the sweetness is plainly due to an approved sweetener.  I usually caution them to drink only 1 can a day and not more.  The only concern I have is the amount of sodium in the soda rather than it causing harm to my diabetic patients.  It is therefore rather surprising to me that a study published in Circulation July 24 issue came up with a warning that “drinking more than one soda a day — even if it’s the sugar-free diet kind — is associated with an increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

The study is not the ideal study population or method that can come up with a firm conclusion or assoiciation since this is a population based study where more than 6,000 participants in the Framingham Heart Study were followed up since 1948.  The study found that after four years of the study, “people who consumed more than one soft drink of any kind a day were 44 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who didn’t drink a soda a day.”

Theories as to why this happen are intriguing steming from the fondness of sugary foods among people drinking soda to the caramel content of the soda promoting metabolic changes in the body.  Unfortunately, this study only proves a possible association and cannot in itself infer causality.  In other words…There is no proof that soda in itself is the culprit until further studies on causality can be done.

So if you love soft drinks then I would recommend allowing yourself to enjoy a”diet” or a “light” soda and only 1 can per day.  Overconsumption of a certain food does not allow one to prevent a disease by consuming more of a certain beverage even if it deemed safe by the medical community.

So…Can Diet Coke Cause Heart Disease? 

I doubt it.  This is only an observational study.  The same kind of method that initially suggested that Estrogen hormone therapy can lower ones risk for heart disease but eventually when a randomized prospective study was done… hormone replacement therapy actually increased ones risk for heart disease. BUT the study for me tells us only one thing: that even if it is “diet and has zero calories does not mean it is safe to over indulge!

The American Heart Association continues to recommend low calorie beverage as a good option for a healthy meal and likewise issued a statement :

“Since this is an observational study, it is important to note that the study does not show that soft drinks cause risk factors for heart disease. It does show that the people studied who drank soft drinks were more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease.

“However, it is possible that other factors could explain this relationship. Often people who drink soft drinks also eat and drink more calories, saturated fat and trans fat and less fiber and dairy products. Also, these people tend to be less physically active. This was true among the subjects in this study.”

So for me … the verdict is in:

It’s the LIFESTYLE Not The Drink! 

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6 Responses to “Can Diet Coke Cause Heart Disease?”

  1. maxim Says:

    Thanks for this balanced and scientific view about diet soda Doc.

    Two important things that I culled from your write-up:
    1. Always check on scientific evidences and positions of the
    credible scientific bodies.

    2. Moderation, moderation, moderation. 1 can of diet soda is
    okay and more than this is already a big question.

  2. Doc Gerry Says:

    Yes Max… sometime the problem with the people and the media is that they fail to check if the scientific data are worth printing or reading.

    Your second point is right… unfortunately it is important for patients also to know that when their doctors say “in moderation”— to specifically ask what they mean by “in moderation”: as to the QUANTITY likehow much or how little, how many packets or cups or glasses… in a term that anybody can understand and apply.

    Thanks again Max for your nice feedback!

  3. Victoria Watson Says:

    I am proof too much diet soda does heart damage. Years ago I was hooked on diet soda and drank lots of it. My heart would go spastic and beat about 300 times a minute. I finally had an abulation and it cured it. Now that I know what diet soda does to the heart, I no longer drink it.

  4. Doc Gerry Says:

    Hi Victoria… I would expect someone that drinks too much caffeine can result in precipitating the heart ailment. More so if you have an underlying asymptomatic heart rhythm abnormality. The caffiene from drinking too much cola resulted in precipitating the rhythm abnormality in your case.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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