Those 'Diet' Drinks May Boost Risk of Heart Condition

High consumption of sweetened beverages accompanied by increased risk of atrial fibrillation
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2024 4:20 PM CST
Those 'Diet' Drinks May Boost Risk of Heart Condition
Cans of Diet Coke and Coca-Cola beverages are stacked on a shelf at a store in Derry, NH.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

If there's one takeaway from a new study analyzing health data from people who consume lots of sweetened beverages, it's that those beverages should be avoided, researchers say. "Do not take it for granted that drinking low-sugar and low-calorie artificially sweetened beverages is healthy—it may pose potential health risks," says lead study author Dr. Ningjian Wang of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine. The study of 201,856 adults in the UK found that those who drank more than two liters of added-sugar beverages per week were 10% more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat than those who consumed none. The risk rose to 20% for those who drank more than two liters of beverages containing artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, CNN reports.

Consumers might grab a Diet Coke or Fanta Zero thinking it's relatively healthy, but it's not, says Wang. In contrast, those who drank a liter of pure, unsweetened fruit or vegetable juices per week had an 8% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, commonly known as A-fib, according to the study published Tuesday in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. A-fib is the leading cause of stroke in the US, per CNN. It can also raise one's risk of heart attack, blood clots, and dementia. It's important to note the research does not show consumption of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages alters one's risk of A-fib. But it suggests consumption "may predict AF risk beyond traditional risk factors," according to the paper.

Wang notes beverages and A-fib could be linked through "insulin resistance and the body's response to different sweeteners," per the Independent. "Our study's findings cannot definitively conclude that one beverage poses more health risk than another due to the complexity of our diets and because some people may drink more than one type of beverage," Wang says in a statement, per CNN. "However, based on these findings, we recommend that people reduce or even avoid artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages whenever possible." (More artificial sweetener stories.)

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