Is Diet Soda Bad for You?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
July 20, 2017

Why is diet soda bad for you? People who drink it every day are more likely to develop long term memory loss and other problems, including stroke and dementia.

Drinking diet soda every day was tied to triple the risk of stroke or dementia over the next decade, in a study of about 4,300 volunteers, aged 45 and up.

In another study from the same team, the researchers looked at brain scans and results of cognitive tests. A daily diet soda was linked to smaller brains and poorer memory, two risk factors for dementia. But sugary soda and fruit juice aren’t safe, either. If you have two sweet beverages a day you also may end up with a smaller brain and aggravate long term memory loss.


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Separate research at the University of Miami also concluded that a daily diet soda could increase your risk of stroke. And in that study, it was linked to heart attacks as well.

That’s a big price to pay for fizzy sweetness. The Miami researchers found that you could safely drink diet soda — just not every day. However, you may not want to take the risk, since researchers are still guessing at the answers to the question of why diet soda is bad for you. It is tied to obesity and diabetes, in part because it may cause poor circulation. Those circulation issues may be the underlying reason it could add to your risk of stroke, dementia, and long-term memory loss. You need a constant supply of blood to the brain. High sugar intake is also tied to poor circulation that could hurt your brain.

If you’re looking for ways to improve memory over time, cutting out those sodas, diet or otherwise, is one of the easiest places to start. Avoiding the calories in sugary drinks is a good idea, but the solution is to drink more water or other unsweetened beverages.

What about those healthy-sounding fruit smoothies? Whole fruits and vegetables are a better choice. Juices are a fast, fiber-less, shot of sugar, which also could aggravate long-term memory loss, as well as weight gain. You can make your smoothie healthier by including vegetables and almond or soy milk.

Energy drinks aren’t healthy either — they’re often packed with sugar, and the stimulants may be dangerous. Consuming just 16 ounces of an energy drink elevates blood pressure and stress hormones in young, healthy adults, according to a 2015 study by the American Heart Association. Sport drinks, which contain minerals and electrolytes to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise, are a better bet, but probably unnecessary, and should be sugar-free.

There’s really no good reason to use the most popular artificial sweeteners, because they also don’t reliably help you lose weight. In mice studies, at least, they appear to promote weight gain. In one study, 10-week-old mice ate a daily dose of aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin. After only 11 weeks, the mice on the artificial sweeteners were showing signs of high blood sugar, a precursor to diabetes​ that is associated with weight gain.

Perhaps you’ve been drinking lots of diet soda for years. You don’t need to panic that every time you forget where you put your keys you’re showing signs of early dementia. Two signs you may not know about are oversleeping and a poor sense of smell. Middle-aged people who begin to sleep nine hours or more a night over more than a decade are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, a 2017 study concluded. Many ailments and medications can interfere with smell, including the beginnings of dementia. Losing weight unintentionally is another worrisome sign.  In a 2016 study, losing 11 pounds a decade from midlife to your 70s corresponded to a 24 percent increase in the risk of cognitive impairment in your seventies.

Stemming long-term memory loss is a goal of anyone who wants to age healthily — and exercise, learning new things, and diet all count. You can learn to love water or unsweetened ice tea and coffee.


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April 09, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN