A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that was conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine found that people who drank diet soft drinks on a regular basis had an increased risk of suffering a vascular event such as a stroke or heart attack. The results were based on data taken from the Northern Manhattan Study, which surveyed 2,564 adults as to their diet and rate of soft drink consumption.
Participants were categorized into one of three groups: no soft drink consumption, light soft drink consumption (1 per month to 6 per week) and regular consumption (one or more per day). The mean follow-up lasted for 10 years, after which they examined the association between soft drink consumption and vascular events.
Even after controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, physical activity, body fat, daily calories consumed and general diet, and including taking any pre-existing vascular conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure into account, it was found that those who drank diet soft drinks every day had a 43% greater risk of suffering a vascular event than those who drank none. Interestingly, those who drank regular soft drinks or who drank diet soda only occasionally had no increased vascular event risk, so the danger appears to lie in the “diet” aspect of the beverage.
The sweetener that is commonly used today in diet sodas is aspartame (more commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal), which is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and is synthesized from genetically modified microorganisms. Our metabolism breaks aspartame down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol, with further breakdown producing formaldehyde and formic acid.
There is 180 mg of aspartame in a 12-ounce can of diet soda.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon who wrote the book, “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” noted that aspartame is “a poison that affects protein synthesis; affects how the synapses operate in the brain, and affects DNA, it can affect numerous organs. So you can get many different symptoms that seem unconnected.” Aspartame is an excitotoxin that can accumulate in the brain and excite the neurons there to the point of death in some cases.