Research on 3,000 women found that two or more artificially sweetened drinks a day doubled the risk of a faster-than-average decline in kidney function.
The link persisted after taking account of other risk factors including age, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and heart disease.
Drinks made with sugar did not have the same effect on kidney function. The scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts said more work was needed to understand what was behind the trend.
Dr Julie Lin, who led the research, said: ‘There are currently limited data on the role of diet in kidney disease.
‘While more study is needed, our research suggests that higher sodium and artificially sweetened soda intake are associated with greater rate of decline in kidney function.’
All the study participants were older Caucasian women. The scientists said it was not clear whether the findings also applied to men or people of different ethnic backgrounds.
The American Beverage Association said: “It’s important to remember that this is an abstract being presented at an annual meeting.
“Until it has been subjected to the rigors of peer-review and published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, it is impossible to provide thoughtful comment on the results.”
A spokesman pointed out that the two main causes of chronic kidney disease were diabetes and high blood pressure “not consumption of diet soda”.
Source: Mail Online, 2 November 2009, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1224610/Diet-drinks-harm-kidneys.html