WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new study links diet drinks and heart disease in women.

The Women's Health Initiative studied a total of 60,000 post-menopausal women for a nine-year span.

It found that women who drank two or more diet sodas a day were 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event. They were also 50 percent more likely to die from heart disease than women who rarely had diet drinks.

Researchers did warn that the results could also be at least partly due to some people drinking diet beverages to compensate for other unhealthy habits.

The findings are scheduled for presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, in Washington, D.C.

The study authors and beverage industry representatives point out that the study has some significant limitations. Because it only followed women over time, asking about habits and patterns that were already in place, it can't prove that diet drinks caused their heart problems.

The women who had the greatest risk of cardiovascular effects consumed two or more diet beverages per day, the American Beverage Association said in a statement prepared in response to the study. However, they also had higher incidence of smoking, diabetes, hypertension and overweight -- all known risk factors for heart disease. Thus, it is impossible to attribute their cardiovascular health issues to their diet beverage intake.

The researchers said they adjusted their numbers to try to account for those differences, as well as other relevant factors such as exercise and caloric intake.

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