Diet Soda Dementia Risk: Do You Really Want That Diet Coke?

We’ve known for some time that artificial sweeteners are really not good for you. In some ways it defies logic as people use them to avoid sugar, which too much of is not good for you. The problem is your brain and pancreas can’t tell the difference, and because the general assumption is that you’re avoiding the risk of sugar, the quantities of artificial sweeteners people consume is astounding!  A new study examines the subject from a different and concerning angle — diet soda dementia risk.

I Thought Artificial Sweeteners Were Better…

The idea that artificial sweeteners are better for you certainly fits with their marketing, as why else would someone choose them. However, despite the lure of having your cake and eating it too, there has been a good amount of research in the last several years which has shown there really isn’t any free cake. Splenda, which is sucralose, causes your body’s response to eating sugar to actually be worse in terms of insulin secretion. This is oversecretion of insulin is one of the biggest health risks in the U.S. today, leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

This newest study on diet soda dementia risk and increased risk of stroke is all over the news this week, but before we delve into it, let’s look at some other studies we’ve covered on diet sodas over the years that will support the information above.

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Fake Sugars in Diet Soda: What the Research Shows

Interestingly, artificial sweeteners are so good at pretending to be sugar that your brain really can’t tell the difference. So insulin and other hormones that are released when sugar is consumed are also released when fake sugars are consumed. How do we know this? Here’s a link to a study on a blog I wrote a few years ago showing that artificial sweeteners (sucralose in this study) in diet soda triggered the signaling system for insulin (GLP-1). These fake sugars stimulated the cells of the pancreas as if they were real sugar in another study covered at this link. Metabolic syndrome is a real epidemic in the U.S., and it lowers the quality of our stem cells. Diet-soda advocates and consumers believe replacing sugar with the fake stuff is addressing the problem, but more and more studies are proving this mind-set is wrong.

Another study, you can find at this link, also shows these fake sweeteners, like Splenda, found in diet sodas disrupt healthy gut bacteria, causing it to turn off your biological signal that tells you you’re full. What does this mean?  It makes you feel hungry, and you actually end up eating more!

The Latest Research on Diet Soda

This newest research coming out of the Framingham Heart Study looked at the links between both naturally sweetened and diet sodas and cardiac and stroke risks. The study consisted of 2,888 stroke subjects and 1,484 dementia subjects. Researchers concluded, “After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), caloric intake, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.” Interestingly, despite the diet soda dementia risk and increased risk of stroke, no association was made between the naturally sweetened sodas and stroke or dementia.

The upshot? Switching to or remaining on diet sodas disrupts gut bacteria; lowers the quality of our stem cells; is no better for metabolic syndrome and diabetes than real sugar; and now, is linked to stroke again, but newly, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is, and in the case of artificially sweetened diet sodas, it’s definitely too good to be true.

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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