Mr. T in DC/flickr
I've been asked repeatedly this week to comment on the huge press outcry about a study that links diet sodas to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
I have not seen the study and neither has anyone else. It is not yet published.
It was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2011. The American Heart Association has a short summary on its website. And Rosie Mestel has an excellent account in The Los Angeles Times.
Here's what I can glean from the limited information available:
• The study started in 2003. It was designed to determine risk factors for heart disease and stroke in a multi-ethnic New York City population.
• It used a food frequency questionnaire to ask about 2,500 people how often they drank diet sodas (among many other questions).
• Nine years later, it assessed rates of stroke and heart disease.
• The result: People who said they habitually drank diet sodas had a 60 percent higher rate of stroke and heart attacks.
• They had a 48 percent higher rate when the data were controlled for contributing factors: age, sex, race, smoking, exercise, alcohol, daily calories, and metabolic syndrome.
That is all we know.
Does this study really mean that "diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes," as the lead author is quoted as saying?