Is Diet Soda Harming Your Brain Health
Switching out sugary soda for a sugar-free alternative sounds like an easy way to cut calories, but if you saw a study published in Stroke;last week, you may be wondering if you made a mistake. Researchers found that older adults who regularly drank artificially sweetened beverages, such as diet soda, were about three times more likely to have a stroke or develop Alzheimer’s disease over 10 years, painting a worrying picture for anyone who regularly enjoys diet soda.
The findings may sound alarming, but the research paints a more nuanced picture. The results come from the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term observational study of people living in Framingham, Massachusetts. From 1991-2001, participants were asked questions about their health and diet. Then, over the following 10 years, the researchers tracked the patients’ health, allowing them to cross-reference data and identify associationsincluding how many people who regularly consumed diet soda developed Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s also important to note that participants were asked about the quality of their diets and lifestyle before the study began, but not in the follow up. And researchers didn’t ask about other factors known to influence health, such as socioeconomic status.
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Diet Soda And Dementia: What You Need To Know
A recent study found that drinking even one diet soda a day may triple your risk for developing dementia. But there’s a lot more to the story. Nutrition Diva explains
A study published last week in the journal;Stroke;found that drinking even one can of diet soda a day;triples your risk of dementia. Not surprisingly, this caused quite an uproar.
Sharyn posted her concerns on the;:
I’m disturbed by a report I heard yesterday about a possible;link between artificial sweeteners and dementia. I’m reluctant to stop using artificial sweeteners on the basis of a single study. I’m in my 60’s and use artificial sweeteners daily. So sure, I’m concerned. Are there other studies that support this?
As a matter of fact, Sharyn, there;dont;seem to be any other studies linking artificial sweeteners to dementia. And I think your reluctance to change your behavior based on a single isolated finding is very reasonableespecially when we take a closer look at what this particular study actually found.
However, there may be other, more compelling arguments against daily consumption of artificial sweeteners. Ill get back to those in a moment. For now, lets take a look at what this most recent study does tell us about the relationship between artificial sweeteners and dementia risk.
Neurotoxicity Brain Damage And Mood Disorders
Aspartame has been linked to behavioral and cognitive problems including learning problems, headache, seizure, migraines, irritable moods, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, wrote the researchers of a 2017 study in Nutritional Neuroscience. Aspartame consumption needs to be approached with caution due to the possible effects on neurobehavioral health.16
Oral aspartame significantly altered behavior, anti-oxidant status and morphology of the hippocampus in mice; also, it may probably trigger hippocampal adult neurogenesis, reported a 2016 study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.17;
Previously, it has been reported that consumption of aspartame could cause neurological and behavioural disturbances in sensitive individuals. Headaches, insomnia and seizures are also some of the neurological effects that have been encountered, according to a 2008 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. e propose that excessive aspartame ingestion might be involved in the pathogenesis of certain mental disorders and also in compromised learning and emotional functioning.18;
eurological symptoms, including learning and memory processes, may be related to the high or toxic concentrations of the sweetener metabolites, states a 2006 study in Pharmacological Research.19
Aspartame could impair memory retention and damage hypothalamic neurons in adult mice, according to a 2000 mice study published in Toxicology Letters.20
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What Did The Researchers Find
This study looked at the relationship between both sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverages and the incidence of strokes and dementia. It tracked ~4,000 people from Massachusetts from 1991 until 2014 to see how many sugar-sweetened drinks and artificially-sweetened drinks each person drank, along with how many individuals were diagnosed with strokes or dementia.
Because factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, and excess caloric intake could increase the risk of having a stroke or developing dementia, the researchers adjusted for these covariates.
The headline-grabbing result was pretty stark: people with a cumulative intake of more than one artificially-sweetened beverage per day were 2.96 times more likely to be at risk for an ischemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to be at risk for developing dementia, compared to people who did not drink any sweetened beverages. Those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages didnt see an increased risk.
After following ~4,000 people over fourteen years, researchers found that people who consumed more than one artificially-sweetened beverage per day were around three times more likely to experience an ischemic stroke or dementia, while sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers didnt have an increased risk.
Artificial Sweeteners: Other Shortcomings
Another conundrum: researchers dont have any plausible explanation for why artificial sweeteners might increase stroke risk. Still, there may be other reasons to ditch them.
If you use artificial sweeteners to control your weight, you should know that the support for that strategy is pretty shaky. Some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners make people crave sugary, high-calorie foods, thereby negating the sweeteners potential to cut your overall calorie intake. And some experts believe that people who use these high-intensity sweeteners may come to find naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and less-sweet foods, such as vegetables, downright unpalatable. If so, those people might be missing out on the many heart-protecting nutrients found in fresh, natural foods.
But Dr. Rexrode isnt a stickler when it comes to diet soda. I encourage my patients to eliminate regular soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks to avoid empty calories, she says. But if someone says they cant do without a Coke in the morning to wake up, Ill encourage them to switch to coffee or diet Coke. Water is an even better choice, however. There are a lot of ways to make it more appealing, both visually and taste-wise. she adds. Try flavoring flat or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or add frozen fruit, cucumber, or crushed mint.
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Diet Drinks And Dementia
Find out about the unclear association between artificially-sweetened beverages and dementia.
People who drink at least one artificially-sweetened beverage every day may have an increased risk of developing a stroke or dementia compared to those who drink them less than once a week, according to research carried out in Massachusetts.
The researchers reviewed what people were drinking at three different points in time over seven years. People reported their eating and drinking habits by completing questionnaires.
The researchers kept in touch with the same people for the next 10 years to see who developed a stroke or dementia. There was a link between developing dementia and drinking artificially-sweetened beverages, but not with drinking ones that had been sweetened with sugar.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimers Society, said, This research does not show that artificially-sweetened drinks cause dementia. But it does highlight a worrying association that requires further investigation.
Research into dietary factors is very complex and there are a number of issues that need clarifying for example, why drinks sweetened with sugar were not associated with an increased risk in this study and teasing out links between all types of sugary drinks, diabetes and dementia.
Soda May Increase Your Risk Of Stroke
Approximately 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, and the condition accounts for 1 in 6 deaths related to cardiovascular disease in the U.S. Unfortunately, drinking either diet or traditionally-sweetened soda on a regular basis can increase your risk of this often-fatal condition.
According to the aforementioned study published in Stroke, individuals who regularly drank diet soda had nearly triple the risk of stroke compared to study participants who drank none.
Additionally, a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that consumption of one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day may increase a person’s risk of stroke by as much as 21%.
If you want to lower your stroke risk, check out these Foods That Help Stave Off Strokes After 40.
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Swordfish And Ahi Tuna
Most health experts are big fans of fish, but the kind they love is salmon and others that contain a healthy fat called omega-3 fatty acids. Swordfish, ahi tuna, and other big fish lose points because they tend to be high in mercury. Thats a neurotoxin — meaning toxic to your brain — that may lead to higher risk of memory loss and poorer thinking skills in older adults.;
Diet Soda And 5 Other Foods That Cause Dementia
An unhealthy diet affects the brain. There are many foods that cause dementia. Consuming processed foods, complex carbohydrates, and sugar stimulates the production of toxins in the body. These toxins can result in a buildup of plaque in the brain, and cause inflammation.
How important is a healthy diet? We know it helps with good heart health, keeps blood pressure in control, helps lower the risk of cancer and diabetes, and keeps many illnesses at bay. One thing which you may not be aware of is that it also impacts your memory. A poor diet increases the chances of developing dementia and Alzheimers disease.
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A Diet Soda A Day Might Affect Dementia Risk Study Suggest
One or more artificially sweetened drinks a day was associated with higher risk of stroke and dementia, a new study suggests.
The research, published Thursday in the science journal Stroke, examined consumption of beverages sweetened with sugar and artificial sweeteners but did not find that same association with sugary beverages. The results, however, come with a host of caution flags raised by experts. They say the study does not even hint that regular sugary drinks;directly cause strokes or dementia.
The studys lead author said the observational study shows an association or trend in a group of people and not a direct cause-and-effect link. Its more hypothesis-generating.
The jury is still out, and this just shows people need to be cautious, said Matthew Pase, Ph.D., a fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and an investigator at the Framingham Heart Study.
Previous studies have looked at artificial sweeteners impact on stroke risk. Pase believes this is the first study to look at its association with risk of dementia and he hopes the work will spur more research into the effects of these sweeteners on the brain.
Over seven years, researchers used food frequency questionnaires up to three different points in time. They then followed up for the next 10 years to determine who developed stroke and dementia.
But, Johnson said, there is a part of the issue that is settled science.
Foods That Cause Dementia
Diet soda and other sugary beverages arent the only cause of dementia. There are other foods that cause dementia.
Beer: Beer contains;nitrites, which can cause Alzheimers disease.
Microwave popcorn:;It contains diacetyl. It is a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain.
White foods:;Foods like;white sugar, white rice, white bread, pasta, and cake cause a spike in insulin production and sends toxins to the brain.
Processed meats:;;Processed meat like bacon, smoked turkey, and ham contain;nitrosamines. They cause the liver to produce fats that are toxic to the brain.
Processed cheese:;Consuming processed cheese like mozzarella sticks, Cheez Whiz, and American cheese can cause;Alzheimers disease.
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Diet Soda Dementia And Stroke
Boston University researcher Matthew Pase, PhD, and colleagues examined 10 years of health information from nearly 3,000 American adults over 45 to count the number who had a stroke. They did the same for nearly 1,500 American adults over 60 to determine how many developed dementia.
After accounting for a variety of things that could influence their health, such as age, physical activity, and waist size, the researchers found that diet soda drinkers nearly tripled their odds of stroke and dementia, compared with those who drank no diet soda.
Scary, right? Not necessarily, says Pase. Only 81, or 5%, of the people in the study were diagnosed with dementia, and only 97, or 3%, had a stroke.
At the end of the day, were talking about small numbers of people, says Pase. I dont think that people should be alarmed.
Pase also makes clear that his studys results, published in April in the journal Stroke, dont explain the link. Do diet sodas cause health problems like stroke and dementia? Or do people who have higher chances of getting such health problems choose to drink diet soda, perhaps to try to cut sugar and calories in their diets? Pase cant say.
The Crucial Role Of Amyloid
Amyloid-beta is the substance that forms thefamous plaque that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’spatients. It has been believed by many in the researchcommunity that amyloid-beta is the principal cause ofAlzheimer’s, and as a consequence, researchers are actively seekingdrugs that might destroy it. However, amyloid-beta has the uniquecapability of stimulating the production of an enzyme, lactatedehydrogenase, which promotes the breakdown of pyruvate into lactate, throughan anaerobic fermentation process, rejuvenating NAD+ and enablingthe further production of a substantial amount of ATP through additional glycolysis.
The lactate, in turn, can be utilized itself as an energy source by somecells, and it has been established that neurons are on the short listof cell types that can metabolize lactate. So I conjecture thatthe lactate is transported from the astrocyte to a neighboringneuron to enhance its energy supply, thus reducing its dependence onglucose. It is also known that apoE can signal the production ofamyloid-beta, but only under certain poorly understood environmentalconditions. I suggest those environmental triggers have to do withthe internal manufacture of fats and cholesterol as opposed to theextraction of these nutrients from the blood supply. I.e.,amyloid-beta is produced as a consequence of environmental oxidative stressdue to an inadequate supply of fats and cholesterol from the blood.
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Pregnancy Abnormalities: Pre Term Birth
According to a 2010 cohort study of 59,334 Danish pregnant women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, There was an association between intake of artificially sweetened carbonated and noncarbonated soft drinks and an increased risk of preterm delivery. The study concluded, Daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery.35
- See also: Downing Diet Soda Tied to Premature Birth, by Anne Harding, Reuters
Of Course Theres More To The Story
Before you despair or give up your favorite diet beverage forever, keep in mind that a study of this sort has some major limitations that can lead to faulty conclusions. For example:
To understand how concerned we should be and how artificial sweeteners might cause these health problem , additional research will be needed.
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Intestinal Dysbiosis Metabolic Derangement And Obesity
Artificial sweeteners can induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota, according to a 2014 study in Nature. The researchers wrote, our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage Our findings suggest that NAS may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.32
- See also: Artificial Sweeteners May Change our Gut Bacteria in Dangerous Ways, by Ellen Ruppel Shell, Scientific American
A 2016 study in Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism reported, Aspartame intake significantly influenced the association between body mass index and glucose tolerance consumption of aspartame is associated with greater obesity-related impairments in glucose tolerance.33
According to a 2014 rat study in PLOS ONE, aspartame elevated fasting glucose levels and an insulin tolerance test showed aspartame to impair insulin-stimulated glucose disposal Fecal analysis of gut bacterial composition showed aspartame to increase total bacteria34
Both Sugary And Diet Drinks Correlated With Accelerated Brain Aging
Americans love sugar. Together we consumed nearly 11 million metric tons of it in 2016, according to the US Department of Agriculture, much of it in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages like sports drinks and soda.
Now, new research suggests that excess sugarespecially the fructose in sugary drinksmight damage your brain. Researchers using data from the Framingham Heart Study found that people who drink sugary beverages frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampusan area of the brain important for learning and memory.
But before you chuck your sweet tea and reach for a diet soda, theres more: a follow-up study found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.
Researchers are quick to point out that these findings, which appear separately in the journals Alzheimers & Dementia and Stroke, demonstrate correlation but not cause-and-effect. While researchers caution against over-consuming either diet soda or sugary drinks, more research is needed to determine howor ifthese drinks actually damage the brain, and how much damage may be caused by underlying vascular disease or diabetes.
Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to, she adds.
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Liver Damage And Glutathione Depletion
A mouse study published in 2017 in Redox Biology reported, Chronic administration of aspartame caused liver injury as well as marked decreased hepatic levels of reduced glutathione, oxidized glutathione, -glutamylcysteine, and most metabolites of the trans-sulphuration pathway39
A rat study published in 2017 in Nutrition Research found that, Subchronic intake of soft drink or aspartame substantially induced hyperglycemia and hypertriacylglycerolemia Several cytoarchitecture alterations were detected in the liver, including degeneration, infiltration, necrosis, and fibrosis, predominantly with aspartame. These data suggest that long-term intake of soft drink or aspartame-induced hepatic damage may be mediated by the induction of hyperglycemia, lipid accumulation, and oxidative stress with the involvement of adipocytokines.40