Diet soda's death risk

It's a common mistake: People want to get healthier, so they swap regular soda for diet soda. It has no sugar, no calories and the word "diet" is right in the name… so it must be better, right?

Wrong.

Diet soda is a deadly mistake, as new research confirms that drinking this stuff regularly could actually kill you.

Women who drink two diet sodas per day are 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or some other cardiovascular problem, according to the study. Even worse, diet soda drinkers are 50 percent more likely to die than women who almost never drink diet sodas.

What makes this so frightening is that this isn't the toll of an extreme soda habit. It's an all-too-common habit, a diet soda with lunch and another with dinner.

Millions of people, men and women alike, drink far more than that. And while the new study presented at a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology focused on women, you can bet men share many of the same risks.

After all, we've seen it before.

Diet soda drinkers, for example, actually have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes -- with one study showing that three bottles of soda a week is linked with a 60 percent increase in risk for the disease.

That's not three per day. That's three per week.

And diet soda has also been linked to heart problems and stroke as well as mood disorders such as depression.

Why? The obvious suspects are the chemical sweeteners such as aspartame used in diet sodas. But there are other dangerous chemicals in these drinks as well, including cancer-causing coloring agents and toxic preservatives.

So forget soda, diet and regular.

If plain old water doesn't cut it for you, try infusing it with lemons, oranges, mint or even cucumber. If you want some fizz, switch to plain seltzer.

And for a truly healthy drink, try tea. Black tea can protect the heart, not hurt it, and herbal teas can help ease stress and improve sleep.