Diet Soda, Salt May Raise Stroke Risk

By Traci Pedersen
January 12th, 2022
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.

Diet Soda, Salt May Raise Stroke RiskDiet soda and salt consumption is associated with an increased risk for vascular problems, including stroke, according to two new studies by the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami.

In fact, it was discovered in the first study that simply drinking diet soda (not the regular kind with sugar) creates a far higher risk for vascular problems compared to not drinking any kind of soda at all.

Researchers confirmed that those who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who did no soda drinking.   The study included 2,564 individuals who were a part of the multi-ethnic Northern Manhattan Study.

At the beginning of the study, researchers asked participants how much and what kinds of sodas they drank. Individuals were then grouped into seven categories: no soda (less than one soda of any kind per month); moderate regular soda only (between one per month and six per week); daily regular soda (at least one per day); moderate diet soda only; daily diet soda only; and two groups of people who drink both kinds: moderate diet and any regular, and daily diet with any regular.

During the follow-up of approximately 9.3 years, there were 559 vascular events, including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke (which is caused by rupture of a weakened blood vessel).

Researchers accounted for participants’ sex, age, race/ethnicity, exercise, daily caloric intake, smoking status and alcohol consumption. After the participants’ metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease and heart disease history were also taken into account, the increased risk was still 48 percent higher.

“If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes,” said Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist in the Department of Neurology  at the Miller School.

In another study involving 2,657 participants –also part of the Northern Manhattan Study –researchers discovered that high salt consumption (independent of hypertension issues) was linked to a significantly increased risk of ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is stopped by a blood vessel blockage.

In this study, individuals who consumed more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day had more than twice the risk of stroke compared to those who kept their daily consumption to less than 1,500 milligrams.

Specifically, there were 187 ischemic strokes reported during 9.7 years of follow-up. Stroke risk, independent of hypertension, increased 16 percent for every 500 mg of sodium consumed a day. These numbers included adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, exercise, alcohol use, daily caloric intake, smoking status, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and prior heart disease.

“The take-home message is that high sodium intake is a risk factor for ischemic stroke among people with hypertension as well as among those without hypertension, underscoring the importance of limiting consumption of high sodium foods for stroke prevention,” Gardener said.

This research was presented during the American Stroke Association’s  International Stroke Conference 2011 in Los Angeles.

Source:   University of Miami

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.