Diet sodas aren’t off the hook just yet.

Withstanding shaky claims that artificial sweeteners cause cancer and the possibility of being linked to metabolic syndrome, diet soda is still in the hot seat.

Presented at the American Stroke Association’s international conference this week, new research led by scientists at Columbia University and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine suggests that diet soda might increase a person’s risk of developing vascular health problems — those related to blood vessels — and stroke.

The aggressor: sodium.

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Using data collected from a nine-year analysis of approximately 2,500 people over the age of 40, scientists found a relationship between diet soda consumption and vascular problems. A second study using the same data linked salt intake to ischemic strokes, which result from vessels blocking blood from reaching the brain.

According to the research, subjects who consumed one or more diet sodas on a daily basis had a 61 percent greater risk of experiencing vascular events than their soda-less counterparts. The second study showed that individuals who consumed more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day had twice the risk of experiencing a stroke when compared to individuals with an intake of less than the recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.

The average amount of sodium consumed daily across test subjects was more than double the recommended limit.

The researchers considered each subject’s diet, exercise activity, existing health problems, smoking and other demographic factors, and still found relationships between sodium intake and increased health risks.

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To provide some context, a 12-ounce can of Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi each contains between 35 and 40 milligrams of sodium, according to nutrition labels.

These numbers don’t seem like much, but when people consume several diet sodas a day or eat other high-salt foods, sodium can easily add up.

Although the findings may make you question your daily diet soda regimen, it’s important to note that the leaders of these studies acknowledge the need for more research before drawing any conclusions on the effects of diet soda on human health.

But for the time being, cutting back on sodas is probably not a bad idea anyway.

Photo by Mr. T in DC/