I used to have a diet soda with my lunch every day. I switched to water a few years back when Bottom Line/Personal reported that the phosphoric acid in soda might cause bone loss.
Now I’m really glad I did. A new study by researchers at Harvard University and Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute has linked the regular consumption of soda—both sugar-sweetened and diet—with increased risk for stroke. The study analyzed the soda consumption of more than 100,000 men and women over more than 20 years and concluded that drinking soda on a daily basis increases stroke risk by about 16%.
The fact that sugar-sweetened sodas increase stroke risk should come as no surprise, says Adam Bernstein, MD, one of the authors of the study. Earlier studies had already linked consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas to coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain and increased risk for diabetes. But Bernstein and his coauthors were surprised to learn that low- and no-sugar diet sodas appear to produce the same increased stroke risk. “We don’t have a good biological mechanism to explain this finding,” Bernstein says. A recent study suggests that a widely used caramel coloring might be a contributing factor, though Bernstein cautions that this finding is very preliminary.
Rather than soda, Bernstein recommends that we drink water, tea, coffee or skim milk, beverages that do not increase stroke risk. In fact, the study found that drinking coffee—caffeinated or decaf—actually decreases stroke risk, perhaps because of the antioxidants that coffee contains.
That’s welcome news! I gave up my lunchtime diet soda for the sake of my health, but it looks like I get to keep my morning coffee.