WEDNESDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Diet soda fans who drink the beverages every day may be cutting down on calories, but they also might be boosting their risk of stroke, new research suggests.
"In our study, we saw a significant increased risk among those who drank diet soda daily and not regular soda," said Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was slated to present her research Wednesday at the International Stroke Conference 2011 in Los Angeles.
Why the link? "It's unknown at this point," she said.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer, in the United States. More than 137,000 people a year die from stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.
Previous research by others has found that those who drank more than one soft drink a day, whether regular or diet, were more likely than non-drinkers to have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors including high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides (blood fats), low levels of good cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar and large waists. Metabolic syndrome, in turn, raises the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, experts agree.
Gardener and her colleagues evaluated the soda habits of 2,564 people enrolled in the large Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) to see if there was an association, if any, with stroke. The participants were 69 years of age, on average, and completed food questionnaires about the type of soda they drank and how often.
During the average nine-year follow-up, 559 vascular events occurred, including strokes caused by hemorrhage and those caused by clots, known as ischemic strokes.
The researchers controlled for such factors as age, gender, ethnicity, physical activity, calorie intake, smoking and alcohol drinking habits and still found that those who drank diet soda dail
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