People who are trying to cut their sugar intake but cannot resist their love of fizzy drinks usually turn to so-called "diet" soda variants to minimize health hazards. However, a new study found that artificial sweeteners incorporated in such beverages may up the risk of heart failure (HF).
Swedish researchers embarked on a study to determine if there is an existing link between increased sweetener consumption and heart failure risk.
The authors, who hail from Karolinska Institutes in Sweden, said that it is quite surprising to know that studies considering nutritional variables in relation to HF are still limited compared to other cardiovascular diseases. Specifically, one review found that observational researches that tackled nutritional exposures and HF associations were only less than 20. These studies determined reverse links of various food items such as cereals, vegetables, fruits, chocolate, fish and alcohol, but no past study delved into the relationship between sweetened beverages and HF.
With this, the researchers of the new study focused on the role of sweetened beverages on HF risk. Such study factor is said to be relevant because it is widely consumed by people all around the world.
After studying 42,400 male participants for 12 years, they found 3,604 were diagnosed with HF with a positive association with constant intake of sweetened beverages such as diet sodas. HF risk may rise by about 23 percent should a person drink two cans of diet sodas per day, the researchers said.
The study attributed the HF risk, not only to one sweetened drink, but to all artificially-sweetened beverages that fall under the "diet" drink category.
Products that use sugar and high-fructose corn syrup as sweetener have already been associated with the occurrences of health conditions such as obesity, stroke, diabetes and hypertension. In the new study, the authors appear to have suggested that diet drinks may not be a healthier option.
Increased intake of sweetened drinks typically signifies poor overall diet, which the authors think is the more reliable factor in determining the occurrence of disease.
"The well known association of sweetened beverages with obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are risk factors for heart failure, reinforces the biological plausibility of [the study authors'] findings," the researchers said (PDF).
In the end, they concluded that their study results suggest that to better prevent the disease, people should be advised to limit sweetened drink consumption or eliminate it totally in their diets.
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