I love my diet soda, specifically one brand, but I kept reading that this was a bad habit that was going to kill me. I should be drinking water for my long-term health, getting rid of that sugar-free brown sparkling water forever.
I thought that I was taking a risk on my overall health by drinking diet soda even though it was better than drinking the full sugar versions of that drink. But recently, I thought to myself, “self, is there any science behind the tropes about diet soda?”
I decided to dig into it, and what I figured out was that the science didn’t support the claims of the diet soda deniers. Not even close.
Now, I could stop here and call it a day, but I know my audience, and you want science supporting or debunking the claims of the anti-diet soda world. So, here I go with some science.
Two recent studies published in respected journals seem to indicate that diet soda increases risk of stroke and dementia. Not to give a free pass to sugary drinks, one of the studies seemed to indicate that either artificially sweetened or sugar filled drinks might be linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Typical of the popular press and your average website, they accept the findings of these studies without any serious critique of these studies. US News blares a headline that says, “Health buzz: drinking diet soda linked to stroke, dementia risk, study says.” Thankfully, many of the headlines use the qualifier “may be linked,” but I’m afraid most people will overlook that nuanced discussion of these studies.
But what does the actual science say? Do these studies provide us with robust evidence that cutting out diet soda will suddenly decrease our risk of stroke, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? Probably not, but let’s see what this data actually tells us.