Knoxville (WVLT) - Diet soda may help you lose weight, but a new study finds it may carry heart risks.
Researchers say people who drank more than one diet soda each day developed the same risks for heart disease as those who drank regular soda.
Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard looks at the reasons why.
the results surprised even the researchers, who say they expected to see a difference between regular and diet soda drinkers.
But, they emphasize, the findings don't show diet sodas are the cause of these increased heart disease risks.
Zero calories, 99 percent water and very little flavoring, the large, but inconclusive study finds a surprising link between diet soda and heart disease.
"Certainly the diet sodas have no calories and we would think that at least would make a tremendous difference in the effect on weight gain and development of things like metabolic syndrome,” says Dr. Randy Pardue.
Researchers found those who drank more than one soda per day, diet or regular, had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome compared with those who drank less than one soda.
Family practice Doctor Randy Pardue says it could be that diet soda increases the craving for more sweets, and people who drink soda probably have less healthy diets, overall. "Drinking the sweet-tasting sodas even without calories will also stimulate an insulin reaction, which can then trigger all the things that lead to metabolic syndrome, so that's one other possibility here."
Doctor Pardue says many people who drink diet soda, overweight people who need to lose weight, and thin people who want to stay that way, have unhealthy habits that could lead to these increased heart risks. "For example, I didn't see a commentary on whether you look at simply what kind of person chooses a diet soda."
Researchers say diet soda can be a good option to replace high calorie beverages, but they contain no vitamins or minerals, and say more studies are needed.
Most diet sodas contain aspartame, a sweetener whose safety has been called into question ever since it first gained us approval in 1981.
This new study's authors found no link between aspartame and the heart disease risks.