Questions persist around possible health harm from diet soda

A recent European study found an association between drinking two or more daily artificially sweetened beverages and increased risk of premature mortality—a finding that backs up previous studies. But none of these studies have been able to resolve the question of whether the drinks are causing harm or whether people who drink them already have an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a September 6, 2019 New York Times article.

“It could be that diet soda drinkers eat a lot of bacon or perhaps it’s because there are people who rationalize their unhealthy lifestyle by saying, ‘Now that I’ve had a diet soda, I can have those French fries,’” Vasanti Malik, a nutrition researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Times. She was lead author of a study that found that the link between artificial sweeteners and increased mortality in women was largely inconclusive.

David Ludwig, professor in the Department of Nutrition, told the Times that because the studies are observational, it’s hard to determine cause and effect.

While a long-term clinical trial that randomly assigns people to a sugary or diet beverage group would be the ideal form of study, Malik noted that it would not be realistic. “Many people would drop out, and it would also be prohibitively expensive,” she said.

Read the New York Times article: Death by Diet Soda?

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Are artificial sweeteners healthier than sugar? (Harvard Chan School news)

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