Post-Menopause and the Dangers of Diet Soda

Posted by Meghan Orner on May 15, 2015

Post-Menopause and the Dangers of Diet Soda

For years there has been much controversy over the health issues associated with diet soda. Sure, you’re cutting out the amount of calories found in regular soda, but as Mayo Clinic points out, there’s no guarantee that diet soda prevents obesity and other serious health problems. On the contrary, a new study shows that drinking diet soda actually leads to an increased risk in heart attacks, blood clots and other heart health issues in post-menopausal women.

The Health Threats

Close to 60,000 American women participated in this study by estimating their daily consumption of diet soda and low-calorie fruit drinks over the course of three months. The average age of the women in the study was 63, and they were divided into the four groups listed below depending on their daily diet soda consumption:

  • Heavy consumers (two or more drinks a day)
  • Moderately high consumers (five to seven drinks a week)
  • Moderately low consumers (one to four drinks a week)
  • Least frequent consumers (zero to three drinks a month)

After waiting nine years, researchers then received updates on all of the participants’ heart health statuses to see how many of the women in the various groups experienced a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, blood clots, surgery to reopen blocked arteries or even death due to heart health troubles.

Once all the data was collected, researchers concluded that the women who were heavy consumers of artificially sweetened drinks had a 30 percent higher probability of experiencing heart trouble sometime over the course of the nine years.

It is also important to note that the heavy consumers of diet drinks were also more likely to be overweight, have diabetes or high blood pressure and smoke – all of which can negatively impact one’s heart health as well. (Note: The study did take these characteristics and habits into consideration when forming their calculations.)  

The Study’s Drawbacks

 Although this is certainly not the first study to tackle this ongoing health concern, it is important to take into account the limitations of this study. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that this study only focused on women – men could be just as negatively affected by diet soda as women are. As an ongoing study over the course of several years, it solely focused on the participants’ habits that were already in place, which makes it much more difficult to correlate their heart troubles solely with drinking diet drinks.

Despite these setbacks, this study still raises concern for heavy consumers of diet soda, especially since other studies have reached similar conclusions on the health issues associated with diet soda.

Some Healthy Alternatives

We’ve all had those days when it seems like nothing will quench our thirst quite like a sugary drink, but it is in those moments that we need to ask ourselves what the health consequences could be.

Here are five tips to help you limit your consumption of soda and other sugary drinks:

  • Set a reasonable goal. Just like any other habit, drinking artificially sweetened drinks can be a tough habit to simply quit cold turkey. So why not start by reducing your daily diet soda consumption by one? According to dietician HannahEl-Amin, “For every one can of soda you take away from your daily diet, you could lose up to 16 pounds in a year.”
  • Fight fizz with fizz. When craving soda, sparkling water could be a great low-calorie substitute. If you’re still missing the sugary soda flavor, try adding a fresh lemon, lime or orange to the sparkling water.  
  • Find other sources of caffeine. Caffeine headaches can be one of the hardest things to ignore when you’re trying to avoid soda, but tea is another great replacement that is healthier yet still contains some caffeine.
  • Reduce your sugar intake. When dealing with sugar withdrawal, fruit is the perfect snack to deal with those cravings while eating healthy. 
  • Nothing beats a glass of H2O. Water is easily the healthiest alternative to any drink to which you can easily add a fresh lemon or a crystallized citrus packet for flavor on the go.

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