Study leader Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University at Miami, and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said artificially sweetened soft drinks are marketed as healthier alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages, but their long-term health consequences remain unclear, she said.
Gardener and her team examined the relationship between both diet and regular soft drink among 2,564 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study, designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis in a multi-ethnic urban population.
After taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions, including body mass index, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, the researchers found individuals who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43 percent more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who didn't drink any.
In addition, those who drank diet soft drinks irregularly -- 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," Gardener said in a statement. "However, the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear. There is a need for further research before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the potential health consequences of diet soft drink consumption."