"Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association between diet drinks and metabolic syndrome," lead investigator Dr. Ankur Vyas of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said in a statement. "We were interested in this research because there was a relative lack of data about diet drinks and cardiovascular outcomes and mortality."
Consumption data were obtained via a questionnaire that asked the women to report their diet drink consumption habits over the previous three months. A drink was defined as the equivalent of a 12-ounce beverage and included both diet sodas and diet fruit drinks.
After an average follow-up of 8.7 years, women who drank two or more diet drinks per day were 30 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease compared to women who never or only rarely consumed diet drinks.
Heart disease included congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular death.
"We only found an association, so we can't say that diet drinks cause these problems," Vyas said. "It's too soon to tell people to change their behavior based on this study; however, based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship, if one truly exists."
The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd annual scientific session in Washington.