Can Diet Soda Increase the Chances of Dementia?

Can Diet Soda Increase the Chances of Dementia

The artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas—and thousands of other processed foods—are anything but sweet. In fact, they can be toxic to the brain. Consuming these sugar substitutes on a regular basis is not a recipe for a healthy memory.

Sherry, who weighed over 200 pounds on her 5’5” frame, guzzled diet soda thinking it would help her lose weight. It didn’t. Even worse, she started experiencing a host of symptoms—digestive issues, arthritis, forgetfulness, and confusion. In fact, Sherry’s diet soda habit was hurting her brain and putting her memory at risk.

That’s what a growing body of evidence shows. For example, a study in the journal Stroke found that drinking diet soda was linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

4 Ways Artificial Sweeteners Steal Your Mind

1. Aspartame overstimulates neurotransmitters.

One of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, aspartame is particularly damaging to the brain. Consider how it impacts aspartate, an excitatory neurotransmitter associated with memory as well as learning and pain perception. Aspartame stimulates this neurotransmitter. This may sound like a good thing, but in excessive amounts it overstimulates it, turning it into a potent neurotoxin that damages neurons, causes cell death, and is associated with a host of issues including memory problems and dementia.

2. Artificial sweeteners contribute to chronically high insulin.

Elevated insulin levels increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and also raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other health problems.

3. The artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may lower metabolism.

For anyone who thinks diet sodas help with weight loss, the reality is that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain. Studies of rats fed artificially sweetened foods have found they have slower metabolisms and greater weight gain than those given sugar-sweetened foods—despite the fact that the rats that ate sugary foods consumed more calories than those that ate artificially sweetened foods.  Both diabetes and obesity are considered independent risk factors for memory problems and several forms of dementia. 

4. Artificial sugar substitutes mess with gut health.

A 2018 study in Molecules found that six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k) had toxic effects on gut bacteria. Compromised gut bacteria can lead to issues such as leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes excessively permeable. Leaky gut has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Sweeter Alternatives

If you want to avoid sugar and don’t want the damage that comes from artificial sweeteners, here are two options.

  • Erythritol, a sugar alcohol that comes in crystals or powder form, is calorie-free and doesn’t cause blood sugar or insulin levels to spike. (Note: Be aware that sugar alcohols, such as Xylitol and Maltitol, may cause GI distress.)
  • Stevia, a natural plant extract, is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, but it does not impact blood sugar levels the way sugar does. Some evidence suggests stevia may stabilize blood sugar, but more research is needed.  (Note: If you take medication for blood pressure or diabetes, talk to a healthcare provider before using stevia.)

It is critical for any changes in memory or cognitive function to be investigated. Research shows that changes in the brain from Alzheimer’s disease can start decades before any symptoms arise. Amen Clinics uses brain SPECT imaging to see what is happening in the brain as part of a comprehensive evaluation that also includes cognitive testing and a detailed look at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that may be contributing to memory issues.

At Amen Clinics, we have helped thousands of people reverse memory problems. To speak to a specialist about how we can help you, call 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.


  1. If I stop drinking diet soda will my memory improve?

    Comment by Jennifer — June 21, 2019 @ 4:25 AM

  2. Questions: What is Stevia’s effect on blood pressure?
    If I am taking antihypertension medication why do I need to check with my physician?

    Thank you.

    Comment by Jeannie — June 21, 2019 @ 6:13 AM

  3. If I stop drinking diet soda will my memory improve

    Comment by Diane DeMerchant — June 21, 2019 @ 7:48 AM

  4. Do you have spect image of brain damage due to artificial sweeteners or is this just hypothetical supposition as far as human consumption is concerned? Would love to see quality studies documenting (objective) evidence in humans on reasonable doses, too.

    Comment by Michael Steelman — June 21, 2019 @ 11:01 AM

  5. Thanks for the detailed information. Helpful for making better choices to improve brain function!

    Comment by Neva — June 21, 2019 @ 2:12 PM

  6. Would this apply to sugarless gum, too? Is there any gum that is safe to chew?

    Comment by Clyde — June 23, 2019 @ 8:33 AM

  7. When I used products with aspartame in the past, I would get migraine headaches, so stopped using it. I also tried sucralose & found that I retained fluids when using it, so don’t use it anymore, either. Now I use stevia with no problems!

    Comment by Mary Lou — June 24, 2019 @ 7:31 AM

  8. When will the big soft drink giants like Coke & Pepsi start offering STEVIA instead of all the garbage??
    How do we encourage them??

    Comment by CHRISTINE MILLION — June 25, 2019 @ 9:28 AM

  9. Great question!

    Comment by Jodi — July 19, 2019 @ 8:40 AM

  10. I have same question. Wish they would answer.

    Comment by gloria appleby — July 19, 2019 @ 9:21 AM

  11. What would I need to ask my husband’s doctor to request a lyme disease blood work?

    Comment by Janell Kimbal — August 12, 2019 @ 3:15 AM

  12. I’ve started buying PUR gum. It’s hard to find in stores, so I order on Amazon. It is aspartame free. Has xylitol. It’s comes in several flavors – I prefer the Cool Mint. Manufactured in Canada.

    Comment by Elissa Linehan Braswell — August 21, 2019 @ 4:57 PM

  13. If you check with your physician, I’m sure that you’ll find out.

    Comment by Erin Callahan — October 4, 2019 @ 8:53 PM

  14. What about monk fruit?

    Comment by J Smith — November 23, 2019 @ 7:42 AM

  15. You can get a good overview of treatment for Lyme, especially valuable things that improve possibility of successful treatment, like avoiding EMF radiation and enzymes that help expose the spirochete B. borgderferi to action of antibiotics.

    Comment by Robert Grissom — December 26, 2019 @ 2:27 PM

  16. The best test for Lyme disease is the western blot test. Very accurate . Quest diagnostics is the best.

    Comment by Jeanne White — July 1, 2022 @ 5:01 PM

  17. If i stop drinking diet soda is the side effect reversable?

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