DIET drinks are no better for you than their full-fat counterparts, experts have warned.
Artificially-sweetened drinks have been seen as a “healthy alternative” due to their low calorie count, but experts now say they could put you at risk of heart disease.
Researchers claimed that there is a link between diet drinks and cardiovascular disease and said their findings could inform public health policy.
Published in the American College of Cardiology, researchers looked at data from the French NutriNet-Santé group.
This included records of 104,760 participants who filled out three web-based 24-hour diet logs every six months.
For the purpose of the study, artificially sweetened drinks were defined as those containing non-nutritive sweeteners.
Non-nutritive sweeteners are alternatives to nutritive sweeteners that add little or no calories to your diet when they are used to sweeten foods and drinks.
They are usually sweeter than actual sugar and only need to be used in small amounts.
The researchers defined sugary drinks as those with sugar levels of five per cent or more.
Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks
For each drinks category, participants were divided into non-consumers – those who don’t drink the drinks at all, low-consumers – those who drank the drinks on occasion and high consumers – people who would drink them on a regular basis.
The experts looked at people who had suffered cases of cardiovascular disease from 2009-2019.
These were defined as strokes, transient ischemic attack, myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome and angioplasty.
The researchers excluded the first three years after the follow up checks in order to account for reverse causality bias.
Reverse causality bias is when two things are associated with each other – but not in the expected way.
The researchers excluded this to make sure their results were clear and concise when it came to people who had consumed artificially sweetened beverages.
They found that the first 1,379 people had first incident cases of cardiovascular disease.
Compared to those in the non-consumer group or the high consumer group of both sugary and artificially sweetened drinks, the researchers found that groups that consumed both had higher risks of first incident cardiovascular disease.
Eloi Chazelas, PhD student, lead author of the study and a member of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (Sorbonne Paris Nord University, Inserm, Inrae, Cnam) said that in addition to the risk of heart disease, the study may have further regulatory implications.
He said: “Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks, and these data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labelling and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.”
The researchers added that the link between heart disease and artificially sweetened drinks would need to be further examined in a large-scale group.
Experts previously revealed that a third of a can of fizzy drink a day can raise your risk of cancer.
Experts found that just 100ml of sugary drink could raise your risk of the disease by 18 per cent – a typical can is around 330ml.
The risk of breast cancer specifically rose by 22 per cent.
The team of French researchers believe that sugar in the drinks causes our bodies to store more fat around organs such as the liver and pancreas, and this has been linked to a higher risk of cancer.
High blood sugar levels, inflammation and additives in some drinks may also be to blame.
Diet drinks showed some increased risk, though scientists said only low levels were consumed during the survey.