Is Diet Soda Bad for You?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
October 13, 2023
Is Diet Soda Bad for You?

People who drink diet soda are more likely to develop high blood pressure, stroke, dementia, and maybe depression or cancer. The problem may be poor circulation.

Is diet soda safe?

Sugar-sweetened soda is linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. You might think a diet product is a better option.

It’s not. In a meta-analysis of 72 studies, researchers concluded that diet soda also increases your risk of high blood pressure, and more so the more you drink. In addition, the researchers found a higher risk of stroke, along with death by any cause.

The study didn’t find a higher risk of type 2 diabetes from drinking diet soda, but fruit juice did increase the chances.

Your best choices for beverages may be water, whole fruit and vegetable smoothies, or perhaps unsweetened iced tea.


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Artificial sweeteners and circulation

Looking for the mechanism behind strokes, researchers took various blood measurements when 12 healthy volunteers in their 20s drank water, Mountain Dew, or Diet Mountain Dew.

The Mountain Dew products contained caffeine. The study showed that both drinks slowed blood flow within the brain. The effect didn’t seem sufficient to cause a stroke, however.

But slower blood flow could have accumulating effects. You need a constant supply of blood to your brain. Other researchers have found that artificial soda increases the risk of dementia, in data from nearly 178,000 United Kingdom volunteers tracked over an average of nine and a half years.

That’s not a big surprise. An earlier study of about 4,300 volunteers, aged 45 and up, concluded that drinking diet soda every day was tied to triple the risk of stroke or dementia over the next decade.  

In another study, 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. That affect, along with long-term memory loss, may also apply if you have two sweet beverages a day, including fruit juices.

Other researchers found that a daily diet soda could increase your risk of heart attacks.

The possibility of strokes, dementia, heart attacks is a big risk to take for fizzy sweetness.

Is there any reason to use artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners also seem to increase the risk of  cancer, particularly breast cancer and obesity-related cancers, and possibly depression.

They also don’t reliably help you lose weight or stay thin. They may actually alter your gut in ways that make you feel less full and trigger more eating and weight gain.

What should you drink?

Skip any drinks with sherbet or fruit juice. Juices are a fast, fiber-less shot of sugar, which may increase your risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Whole fruits and vegetables are a better choice. You can make a smoothie healthier if you include vegetables and a protein-rich milk or milk alternative.

Energy drinks aren’t healthy either. They’re often packed with sugar, and the stimulants they contain may be dangerous. A meta-analysis of 32 studies concluded that they often lead to insomnia and low mood in children and teens. They can also lead to upset stomachs, jitteriness, and insomnia in adults.

Consuming just 16 ounces of an energy drink elevates blood pressure and stress hormones in young, healthy adults, according to a 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 they’re probably unnecessary, and they shouldn’t be sugary or artificially sweetened if you drink them.

Do you have early signs of dementia?

Perhaps you’ve been drinking diet soda for years. You don’t need to panic that you’re showing signs of early dementia every time you forget where you put your keys.

Two signs of dementia 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.  

Many ailments and medications can interfere with smell, including the beginnings of dementia. Losing 10 pounds or more unintentionally over a decade during midlife — when most people gain weight — is another worrisome sign.

Avoiding stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, cancer, and dementia should be the goals of anyone who wants to age healthily. No drink is worth those risks.


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October 13, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN