Stop right there, diet soda drinkers. Though you may have thought that swapping your favorite sugary beverages for their sugar-free counterparts was a healthier option, new research suggests this might not be the case.
A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that consuming any soft drinks, diet or not, was linked to an increased risk of all cause mortality (or dying from any cause). The researchers found that consuming more than one sugar-sweetened soft drink per day was associated with an increased risk of dying from diseases of the appendix, liver, pancreas, and intestines. What was even more surprising, they found that consuming more than one artificially sweetened soft drink (like diet soda) was associated with an increased risk of circulatory diseases.
The study examined over 450,000 European men and women from Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden, between the years 1992 and 2001. Participants were surveyed on their food and drink consumption, and those who reported having had cancer, heart disease, a stroke, or diabetes at the beginning were excluded.
Of the findings, researchers pointed out that consuming more soft drinks might be an indicator of an overall unhealthy lifestyle. Neil Murphy, head researcher from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said, “In our study, high soft drinks consumers had a higher body mass index (BMI) and were also more likely to be current tobacco smokers.” However, he also points out, “We made statistical adjustments in our analyses for BMI, smoking habits, and other mortality risk factors which may have biased our results, and the positive associations remained.”
These findings might reinforce what many nutrition experts have been saying for years: heavily processed and artificial foods aren’t the key to better health. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to poor gut health, as well as an increased risk of diseases like metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Diet soda has even been linked to an increased risk of stroke in post-menopausal women!
If you’re looking to get healthier, choosing natural beverages and ingredients to replace sugary or artificially sweetened drinks is a great option. If you're craving something a little more fun than plain water, try infusing your water with fruit like berries or a few lemon wedges along with some herbs like basil or mint!