Given everything we’ve been told about sugar being bad for us, you might think reaching for the “diet” or “sugar-free” option is the smarter choice.

But you’d be wrong.

According to a new research published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal Stroke, the sweeteners used in these alternative beverages are linked to higher rates of stroke and a risk of developing dementia among consumers.

The April 2017 study asked more than 4,000 participants, three times each over a span of seven years, about their eating and drinking habits during that time. Over the next 10 years, the researchers continued to follow the participants’ health records and tracked which among them had strokes or developed dementia.

Researches found that those participants who consumed at least one artificially sweetened “diet” or “sugar-free” drink per day — whether soda or juice — were nearly three times more liked to suffer a stroke or dementia. Factors just as age, sex, caloric intake and the presence of Alzheimer’s risk gene were all factored into the findings.

But before you dump the diet drinks and reach for the regular sodas, consider that a similar study by the same group of researches suggested that the original version of beverages pose problems as well.

This second study was published in the Alzheimer’s Association’s journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia and found that consuming more than one sugary drink per day was also linked to early onset Alzheimer’s disease and lower brain volume.

So what’s a thirsty person to drink?

“We know that limiting added sugars is an important strategy to support good nutrition and healthy body weights, and until we know more, people should use artificially sweetened drinks cautiously,” Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, past chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, said in a press release. “They may have a role for people with diabetes and in weight loss, but we encourage people to drink water, low-fat milk or other beverages without added sweeteners.”

So keep a bottle of water handy for when you need to ward off that thirsty feeling. Unsweetened coffee and tea (think antioxidants!) are also flavorful choices for those committing to a healthier lifestyle.

(h/t Dr. Oz, The Good Life)

Check out this cool glow-in-the-dark cup at the SHOP and make drinking healthy beverages more fun.




Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.