In light of several stories in the media regarding a new study on diet soda and heart health, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation is providing the following background to put the study into the proper context.
The unpublished study recently presented at the American College of Cardiology annual Scientific Sessions in Washington, DC regarding diet soda consumption and heart disease risk in postmenopausal women contributes nothing new to the scientific evidence regarding the safety of low-calorie sweeteners. The promotion of such findings ahead of the peer-review process increases the chance that incomplete or inaccurate information will be taken as fact, leading to unnecessary confusion among consumers.
This study was observational in nature, which means that the findings are incapable of showing a cause-and-effect relationship. Moreover, other diet and lifestyle factors could have been at play that may have contributed to the results. In this case, the authors acknowledge that the results do not show a causal relationship between diet soda and increased heart disease risk.
In addition, the findings are for a specific segment of the population (postmenopausal women), and so cannot be generalized to the rest of the population.
When evaluating a new study, it is important to look at it in the context of the totality of the evidence. There are hundreds of studies on low-calorie sweeteners demonstrating their safety for the general population, including pregnant women and children. In addition, low-calorie sweeteners are approved for use in foods and beverages all over the world, and many countries have reviewed and confirmed their safety as recently as 2013 (EFSA Opinion on Aspartame).
For guidance on translating scientific studies, view our “Improving Public Understanding: Guidelines for Communicating Emerging Science on Nutrition, Food Safety, and Health,” developed by the IFIC Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, as well as our brochure, “Evaluating Scientific Evidence.”
The International Food Information Council Foundation is dedicated to the mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good. The IFIC Foundation is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries. Visit http://www.foodinsight.org.