Drinking two diet fizzy drinks per day can reduce your life expectancy by up to a quarter, according to a new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The organisation has carried out an extended study of more than 450,000 people over a 16 year period to come to this conclusion.
The WHO found that all people who regularly drink fizzy drinks risk dying younger, but those who opt for the diet versions live for an even shorter period. Those studied who drank two diet drinks a day had a death rate that was 26 per cent higher than those who drank one a month or less.
And the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease was 52 per cent higher in those who drank diet drinks twice per day.
The report from the study recommended ditching fizzy drinks altogether, saying, “Artificially sweetened soft drinks have few or no calories; however, their long-term physiological and health implications are largely unknown.
“Water is the safest thing.”
The results of the study come after the sugar tax was introduced in the UK and Ireland last year, in an attempt to reduce soft drink consumption.
This tax, which put an added charge of 24p on drinks that contain eight grams of sugar per 100ml, or 18p on those with five to eight grams, meant that many companies created new versions of their products with lower sugar.
While the WHO says that the results support the initiative to reduce the amount of soft drink consumption, it notes that there is no proof that the sugared and non-sugared drinks are directly linked to early death. Other factors could also play a part.
The study also relied on those taking part to self-report on their intake of the drinks, which could have led to inaccuracies.
Safest to switch to water
“Our results for sugar-sweetened soft drinks provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with other healthier beverages, preferably water,” said Dr Neil Murphy, a co-author of the research, which was the largest study of its kind.
“For artificially sweetened soft drinks, ours is the third large study published this year that has reported positive associations with all-cause deaths.”
The report on the study, which features in the journal Jama Internal Medicine, said that of the thousands of people studied, 70 per cent were women and the participants were from 10 different European countries.
The average age was just over 50, and those with health conditions such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes at the outset were not included in the analysis.
Individuals joined the study between 1992 and 2000 and were then followed up for an average of 16 years, during which time more than 41,600 deaths were recorded.