Sugar-free soft drinks could lead to a greater risk of a heart attack or stroke, new research has revealed.
The study of more than 2,500 people found that those who consumed diet drinks every day had a 61% higher chance of experiencing vascular problems than those who did not have any kind of carbonated drink.
Hannah Gardener, who led the study, said: "If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soft may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes."
The research, presented at the American Stroke Association's international stroke conference in Los Angeles, was carried out by the University of Miami. The 2,564 participants had to state whether they drank diet soft drinks, regular soft drinks, a mixture of the two or none at all.
Researchers said the survey did not include data on the types of diet and regular drinks consumed however, which could have given further information on how drinking different brands affected participants.
Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at The Stroke Association, said: "It is a well-known fact that leading a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke.
"According to this study drinking diet soft drinks on a regular basis could pose the same or even higher risk for cardiovascular disease as standard soft drinks, providing a word of warning to those who often opt for diet versions in order to be 'healthy'.
"Drinking soft drinks in moderation will not be detrimental to your health. Everyone can reduce their risk of stroke by consuming a balanced diet, low in saturated fat and salt, and exercising regularly."
Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This research seems to show a link between diet soft drinks and a greater risk of having a heart attack but it is unclear why this occurs. We'd need to see much more research before we could draw any definite conclusions."
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