Artificially sweetened drinks as bad for heart as sugary ones, study finds

Switching to diet drinks might help you lose weight, but artificially sweetened beverages appear to be just as bad for your heart as sugary ones, a new study suggests.

A French research team looked at data from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort to investigate the relationship between the risk of cardiovascular disease and consuming sugary drinks and artificially sweetened drinks.

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In a research letter published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the team wrote that “sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, which suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy alternative.”

For its study, the researchers included records for 104,760 participants, who were asked to fill out three web-based 24-hour dietary records every six months. “Artificially sweetened” drinks were those with non-nutritive sweeteners, which “sugary” beverages contained 5% or more sugar.

Each beverage category was then divided into nonconsumers, low consumers and high consumers.

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During a decade of follow-up, researchers looked at first incidents of cardiovascular disease, defined as stroke, transient ischemic attack, myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome and angioplasty.

Compared to participants who didn’t drink enough to be considered consumers, both higher consumers of sugary drinks and of artificially sweetened beverages had greater risks of first incident cardiovascular disease.

“Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks, and these data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labeling and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages,” the research team concluded.

The researchers concede large-scale prospective cohorts and mechanistic investigations are needed to establish a causal link between sugary and artificially sweetened beverages and cardiovascular disease.

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