Heart attack risk `in diet fizzy drinks`

London: Guzzling diet fizzy drinks can do more harm than good. Even one can of the beverage a day may significantly raise a person`s risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, says a new study.

An international team, led by University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Columbia University Medical Centre, says its findings dispel the myth that these diet drinks are healthier and can keep one trim.

In their study, researchers found that people who drink diet soft drinks every day are 43 per cent more likely to have heart attacks, stroke or vascular disease, the `Daily Express` newspaper reported.

The study looked at both diet and regular soft drink consumption and the risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular death in a group of volunteers recruited by the researchers.

The findings revealed that those who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43 per cent more likely to have suffered a "vascular" or blood vessel event than those who drank none, after taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Light diet soft drink users -- who drank between one a month and six a week -- and those who chose regular soft drinks were not more likely to suffer vascular events.

"Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes. The mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear," Hannah Gardener, who led the team, said.

Previous research has shown that, even though they have fewer calories than their "full fat" versions, diet drinks not only fail to stop people piling on the pounds, they can even trigger the appetite to eat more.

In fact, one such earlier study, involving more than 500 participants, found that those who guzzled diet soft drinks every day had 70 per cent bigger waists after a decade than those who drank none.

Experts have welcomed the findings published in the `Journal of General Internal Medicine`.

Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation said: "We know too many high-sugar, fizzy drinks are bad for our teeth and can put on weight -- a risk factor for heart disease."

However, a spokesman for British Soft Drinks Association said: "We should be cautious in drawing lessons from this study. It does not take into account important factors such as family history and weight gain.
"People looking to control or reduce their weight will often find that diet drinks can play a useful role in their diet."