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.
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.