Your Daily Diet Soda Habit Is Putting Your Brain Health at Risk

by Hillary Eaton ; Updated March 20, 2018

Sorry guys, but you might want to put down that Diet Coke before reading this. If you thought swapping out your favorite soda for its diet counterpart was a simple way to live healthier, we’ve got some bad news: A new study suggests that drinking diet soda (and other artificially sweetened beverages) every day may increase your risk of dementia and stroke.

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In a study published in the journal Stroke, researchers concluded that those who drank at least one artificially sweetened drink per day were three times more likely to have a stroke and 2.9 times more likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Health explains that the researchers determined the correlation by following 4,500 adults for 10 years. During this time, scientists tracked participants' sugary drink and artificially sweetened drink intake as well as their rate of stroke and development of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What was perhaps most shocking was that no conclusive link was found between sugary drinks (like regular Coke) and stroke or Alzheimer’s. “Sugar has long been associated with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes,” Matthew Pase, PhD, at Boston University School of Medicine and contributing author of the paper told Health. “But fewer studies have been done on its long-term effects on the brain.”

The link between artificially sweetened drinks and adverse health effects, however, was clearer. Those who drank just one artificially sweetened drink per day were more likely to suffer a stroke (three times) or develop Alzheimer’s or dementia (2.9 times). What does this mean for you? Tossing back a diet Pepsi every day may be just as bad for you as drinking regular soda, but in a different way.

Now, don't fly into panic mode just yet. Pase points out that only 3 percent and 5 percent of people in the study had a stroke and developed dementia, respectively, so the numbers aren’t astronomical. Meanwhile, Fortune notes that the study "has a small sample size that doesn't include minorities or account for a whole bunch of other critical factors."

Either way, until more research is done, limiting your diet soda intake is a smart idea. “We know that sodas have no real nutritional value, so it’s not that strange to say we should be cautious about consuming them in excess,” Pase told Health. Added to that, there's conflicting scientific evidence on whether artificial sweeteners can still trigger weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.

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So what should you do when you get a craving for fountain Diet Coke? Pase suggests that you opt for cool, refreshing water instead.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you drink diet soda? Would this information keep you from drinking diet soda? What do you drink instead of diet soda? Let us know in the comments.

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