Diet Soda: Bad for Your Waistline, Bad for Your Heart?

I love diet soda.  It provides a little 'upper' for the afternoon blah's, pairs perfectly with popcorn at the movies and serves as a refresher during sunny days at the pool.  An ice cold diet soda is the perfect little calorie-free treat.  But are we sacrificing our heart health in order to save a few calories?

A study out of Columbia University this year indicates that diet soda drinkers may have an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular disease.  Researchers followed 2,500 New Yorkers for 10 years.  They monitored each individual's diet soda intake as well as changes in their health during this period.  Even after adjusting for factors such as weight and smoking, diet soda drinkers suffered from poorer vascular and heart health compared to non-diet soda drinkers.  Diet soda drinkers were 48% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to individuals who do not drink diet soda. 

Diet soda drinkers have also been shown to have a 36% higher incidence of metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater risk of developing diabetes than non-diet soda drinkers.  Contrary to popular belief, diet soda drinkers are more likely to have larger waistlines than regular soda drinkers according to the study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine

We don't yet know how or why diet soda increases risk of heat attack, stroke, vascular disease and diabetes.  Although this study raises more questions than answers, it looks like the health evidence against drinking diet soda is mounting.  Also linked to kidney disease and cancer, diet soda's touted calorie-free benefits must be called into question.

Given diet soda's relatively innocent reputation among the public, as nurse practitioners we must warn our patients about the potential long-term health effects associated with drinking diet soda.  Individuals already at risk for cardiac disease or diabetes must strongly consider eliminating these drinks from their diets. 

Unfortunately, it looks like I may need to find another pairing for my movie theater popcorn.  What do you think?  Will you keep drinking diet soda?  


While I am not an ER nurse, I am a registered nurse in Colorado who rteencly graduated from nursing school. In order to be an ER nurse, you only have to be a registered nurse (RN). Depending on the state you live in, there are two ways to get your RN. You can go to a 2-year college, like a community college and get your RN, or you can go to a 4-year university to get your RN. You do not have to get a separate degree in children. The starting pay for a nurse is also dependent on where you live. In Colorado, a new graduate nurse makes between $21 and $23 per hour, and usually works 12 hour shifts, three days per week. There are also other certifications to consider getting before becoming an ER nurse. These include ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) and TNCC (Trauma Nursing Core Course). All of this will make more sense once you are in nursing school. I think it best to try to find a mentor at your local hospital who is an ER nurse and get advice from them. Good luck!!!