How to Triple Your Risk of Dementia


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For something so seemingly innocent, there sure are a lot of ways diet soda can do you in.

Several years ago we told you about a study that found women who regularly drank just two or more diet drinks a day were upping their chances of a heart attack or stroke by 30 percent. Plus that, they had a 50 percent greater risk of dying from them.

Then, just last year it was shown that aspartame, the main artificial sweetener these sodas contain, not only won’t help you lose any weight, but can make you a sitting duck for heart disease and diabetes.

Now, some new research has discovered yet two more reasons why you should ditch that diet soda habit once and for all.

A no-brainer

Maybe it’s time for a new public service announcement. But instead of warning about the dangers of drugs, it would say, “This is your brain on diet soda.”

And when you hear what researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine found, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

Just a single can of diet soda a day can triple your risk of developing dementia or suffering an ischemic stroke due to a blocked artery.

I know, that sounds hard to believe. But if you look at the statistics for one deadly kind of dementia, Alzheimer’s, that’s hard to believe, too. The Alzheimer’s Association says that in just a little over a minute, someone else in the U.S. develops this memory-robbing disease.

And for stroke, not only do close to 800,000 people every year in America suffer one, but according to some new research, ischemic stroke victims are getting younger and younger.

The dementia/stroke, diet soda link was discovered in a recent reevaluation of data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), in which nearly 3,000 people over 45 and around 1,500 over 60 took part. The original study was co-sponsored by Boston University and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

While those Framingham subjects who consumed soda sweetened with HFCS (which a previous study had linked to faster brain aging and poorer memory) didn’t seem to raise their risk of dementia or stroke, the ones who regularly drank diet soda were found to have substantially greater odds of both conditions.

And that may be due to the way artificially sweetened beverages affect the flow of blood to the brain, according to Dr. Ralph Sacco, professor and chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who co-authored an accompanying editorial in the journal Stroke.

While the researchers didn’t single out any particular artificial sweetener, aspartame has been the one chiefly used in diet soda since the mid-1980s.

Although one of the authors of this new study said his group needs to do more work “to figure out the underlying mechanisms,” I think there’s been enough figuring already. I mean how much more bad news about diet drinks do we have to hear before somebody says “case closed.”

But someone who has apparently heard enough is Dr. Sacco, who said that when he started looking at the data on the health effects of consuming artificially sweetened beverages years ago he “stopped drinking them.”

So maybe Dr. Sacco should be the one doing that PSA. He could simply hold up a can of diet soda and say, “The brain you save may be your own.”

“Diet sodas raise risk of dementia and stroke, study finds” Maggie Fox, April 20, 2017, NBC News,

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