NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Many people make the switch to diet soda to be a bit healthier when they indulge, but a new study suggests that diet soda drinkers could be more susceptible to heart disease or a stroke.
The average American consumes 57 gallons of soft drinks each year, according to the Global Market Information Database.
Exactly how much of that consists of diet drinks isn't clear, but a new study by Columbia University and the University of Miami shows diet sodas may be more dangerous, reports CBS 2's Don Dahler.
Dr. Mitchell Elkind was one of the lead researchers of the study.
"What our study shows is that drinking diet soda may be associated with an increased risk of vascular events, by which we mean strokes, heart attacks, and other causes of death that can be due to vascular disease," Dr. Elkind said.
The nine-year study involved more than 2,500 people of different ethnicities in northern Manhattan. The study found that those who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of crippling diseases like stroke or heart disease.
The study also found a 48 percent increase in stroke, heart attack or cardiovascular-related death for those who drank diet soda when all other factors were held constant.
What's not yet clear is if there's a chemical in diet sodas causing these diseases, or if people who drink diet sodas are also more likely to have other behaviors that contribute to bad health.
"It could be due to the fact that people who drink diet beverages may not realize how much they're eating of other foods, because they don't get the fullness or sense of satiety that they get from eating sugar beverages," Dr. Elkind said.
Earlier studies have called into question whether diet sodas actually help you lose weight, but one thing Dr. Elkind is not ready to say is that sugary drinks are better for you than diet drinks.
"We should probably be drinking water, healthy juices, things like that that don't have artificial sweeteners or excess sweeteners in them," he said.
Dr. Elkind said there's still more research to be done, but consumers should think twice about what they grab the next time they get thirsty.
CBS 2 reached out to the American Beverage Association for comment, and after reviewing the research, they disagreed that the study shows a link between diet sodas and strokes.
"It appears that the investigators failed to control for two important variables - family history of stroke and weight gain - in their analysis," the statement said.
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