Is diet soda tough on the brain?

While most people typically reach for artificially sweetened beverages in hopes of dodging the sugar, recent studies show that diet soda is not the healthy alternative. Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only affects your body’s health, but researchers are now saying that it also puts your brain at risk. While findings did not completely prove that diet drinks can damage the brain, they coexist with other studies that show people who drink them frequently tend to have poorer health.

Researchers, led by Matthew Pase of the Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues, studied around four thousand people for their published report in the journal stroke. Two sample groups were taken from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts: 2,888 adults older than forty-five and 1,484 adults older than sixty were included. Those older than forty-five were measured for stroke, and those older than sixty were measured for dementia. Researchers started by analyzing the amount of sugary beverages and artificially sweetened soft drinks each person drank between the years 1991 and 2001. Next, they compared that data with how many people suffered from stroke or dementia over the next ten years. “We found that those people who were consuming diet soda on a daily basis were three times as likely to develop both stroke and dementia within the next 10 years as compared to those who did not consume diet soda,” Pase told NBC News. The team did not ask the specific drinks each person consumed or which sweetener they used. However, some of the artificial ingredients were most likely said to be saccharine, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, or sucralose.

Another result that was surprising to Pase was that sugary beverages are not associated with either risks of dementia or stroke. We know that sugary beverages are unhealthy, but there was no correlation drawn.

So, what a healthy alternative? Going back to sugar-sweetened beverages is definitely not the answer. Water is always the best alternative, but doctors and researchers say that the biggest thing you could do is to be diligent and pay close attention to your dietary habits.