February 9, 2011

The Link Between Diet Soda Consumption and Stroke

A study to be presented at the International Stroke Conference 2011 in Los Angeles is getting some play in the health news. You can read a good summary here:

U.S News and World Report: Can Diet Soda Boost Your Stroke Risk?

The researchers "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."

Over 9 years, 22% of the study subjects had a stroke. After controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, physical activity, calorie intake, smoking, alcohol drinking habits, the presence of metabolic syndrome, vascular disease in the limbs and heart disease history those who reported drinking diet soda as opposed to no soda were 48 percent more likely to have a stroke.

In another article covering this same story published by MSNBC
other doctors are quoted as suggesting the problem might be what they eat with the soda--fast food, or possibly something in caramel coloring used to give sodas a brown color, which has been linked to stroke in animal studies.

Alert readers of this blog will, however, remember another equally likely explanation--one that has been known for years, but has received no coverage in the press, because the media get too much advertising money from Coke and Pepsi.

The link between diet soda and stroke may well be the phosphoric acid that is used in the all brown-colored sodas. As documented in my earlier blog post Coke Adds Death, brown-colored sodas are known to damage the kidneys. In fact, drinking as few as two brown-colored sodas--either diet or regular--a day doubles the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Researchers believe the phosphoric acid is the culprit. Phosphates are a known problem for people who already have kidney disease.

It turns out that kidney damage and cardiovascular disease are tightly linked, and the presence of kidney disease often points to the existence of other vascular problems. This makes it very possible that damage to the kidney from phosporic acid is contributing to vascular damage in the brain which leads to stroke.

If phosphoric acid is the problem--and it is likely, since people consuming non-brown colored sodas had a normal risk of chronic kidney disesae, you can avoid it by avoiding heavily-advertised brown sodas like Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, in favor of the light and colored sodas that don't. If in doubt read the label. If it says "phosporic acid" give it a miss. People with diabetes have enough issues to contend with kidney-wise without adding to them.



Chuck said...

has anyone seen any studies linking clean water with adverse health event or risk?

Jenny said...

Too much clean water, yes. People who are chugging many liters of water a day in the belief that it is healthy can dysregulate their electolytes which can be serious.

Chuck said...

i guess my point was to just drink water rather than seek out non phosphoric acid containing sodas. obviously i did a terrible job of making my point.

pjnoir said...

I wonder what the curve of water consumption would look like before bottle water became a staple and since.
If I sell it, I market it, when I market it- you buy it. When you buy it, it becomes important & I get rich.

Jenny said...

I personally don't like plain water all that much. The bottled stuff tastes nasty and is full of bacteria and the stuff at home comes from a well that is very high in minerals. So I drink a lot of herb tea, seltzer, and a bit of diet flavored diet ginger ale with Splenda now and then.

Andrew W said...

Be careful with the water, otherwise known as dihydrogen monoxide. Some of the little known facts are (lifted from http://www.dhmo.org):

- Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
- Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
- Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
- DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
- Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
- Contributes to soil erosion.
- and there are more!

Helen said...

Phosphate has also been implicated in accelerated aging in lab animals. I don't have the link, but you can Google it. It seems to be added to other fast foods as well, yet another reason they're so unhealthy.

Meanwhile, phosphorous is a dwindling natural resource. Why squander it on soda, diet or otherwise, when both kinds are bad for you?

MaxWater said...

Thanks for the post. The study just reaffirms how bad soda really is. I drink plain filtered water only. I think it's crazy to get bottled water which is so much more expensive and they pollute the environment like no tomorrow. A refillable, non-plastic water bottle can be gotten easily if anyone needs to carry water around.

Trev said...

I think I have just found a wickedly well researched blog for my reading enjoyment. Just wanted to say thanks.
I am adding you to my blog roll!
Cheers, from http://www.three2treat.com

Cynthia said...

Hi, Jenny. Thank you for your blog and website. You do a tremendous service!! Much appreciated!! Your comment that phosphoric acid may be the culprit sounded reasonable to me. However, the study didn't find a significant association between regular soda and vascular events. If phosphoric acid were the culprit shouldn't both regular and diet soda be associated with vascular events? Since it's only diet that is associated, doesn't that implicate artificial sweetners more? Thanks.

Jenny said...

I didn't get from the description of the study that diet soda caused more stroke than regular--only that stroke was associated with the diet soda, which they hadn't expected. I think both kinds cause the problems.

Cynthia said...

Maybe I'm reading the study results incorrectly but I think people who drank diet soda were 48% more likely to have a vascular event than people who drank no soda. People who drank regular soda had no more increased risk of a vascular event than people who didn't drink soda at all. As a heavy drinker of diet soda myself, I would like to believe the phosphate angle, but I believe this study indicates that it is the diet soda specifically, not soda generally, that confers the increased risk.

Jenny said...

Cynthia, You are correct. Sorry. I just had a look at the report again, which I hadn't had time to do last night.

However, if you think about WHY people drink diet soda, you can easily come up with a reason why that group had more strokes than those drinking regular soda that has nothing to do with what is in the sodas at all.

People only drink diet soda if they are worried about their health and weight, which usually implies that they have some reason to worry about it.

Beyond that, the numbers are very small--only 4 in 1,000 had strokes in the group as a whole which means that we are probably talking a difference of less than one per thousand in the subgroup that drank soda. Note that they used RISK not INCIDENCE which is an easy way to greatly magnify the number. My guess is that the actual numbers show a very small difference in incidence which could be explained by other factors, including female gender and use of hormones, or use of psychiatric medication.

Cynthia said...

Good point about the small numbers! I won't give up my diet soda yet (tho' I'll keep an eye out for further & better studies in the future).

Chuck said...

I have no idea your situation. Here is a large population study that shows people who drink diet soft drinks have a higher risk of becoming overweight than someone who rinks regular soft drinks. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%20Sharon%20P.%20Fowler

Cynthia said...

Just checked in. Thanks Chuck for the article reference. Weight really isn't the issue for me. It's that I need a low/no carb liquid to drink & I drink non-stop. Like Jenny, I HATE the taste of plain water so need an alternative. I am at increased risk of a stroke so the diet soda connection caught my eye as I drink many a day. I've switched to the vitamin waters but even they have potassium phosphate. There must be many of us that need a safe no-carb alternative liquid to water.

Chuck said...

Have you tried water with a squeeze of lemon? In the end, the most pure form of liquid you can consume will be the safest. Good luck.

Cynthia said...

(Sigh) Chuck you are right, just can't stand the taste even disguised with lemon.