You may think that drinking sugar-free diet soda is better for you than regular soda, which is full of sugar. After all, experts have been telling us for years about the dangers of consuming too much sugar, which has been associated with obesity and other health issues. However, medical studies proved that drinking diet soda is really bad for you as it can greatly increase your risk of stroke and dementia.
Many people avoid sugary soda because of the risks associated with the consumption of too much sugar. Medical studies found that consuming too much sugar may affect your cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and may lead to insulin resistance which can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
However drinking artificially sweetened drinks was found to triple the risk of stroke and dementia. One study has also found that consumption of artificial sweeteners can lead to type 2 diabetes. Some studies link the artificial sweetener aspartame to leukemia and breast cancer.
Drinking Diet Soda is Linked to a Greater Risk of Dementia and Stroke
Some people may opt to use artificial sweeteners as sugar substitutes, thinking they are better than sugar. However research has shown that they can harm your health.
Research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke found that the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks are a major cause for concern. The study found that drinking diet soda is linked to a greater risk of stroke and dementia.
The April 2017 study involved 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60. The researchers asked the participants to answer questions about their eating and drinking habits at three separate points during a seven-year period.
The researchers followed the participants for the next 10 years and recorded which of them suffered a stroke or developed dementia.
The Results of the Study: Drinking Diet Soda Can Triple the Risk of Dementia & Stroke
At the end of the study, the researchers found that those who drank at least one artificially sweetened drink per day were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke or develop dementia compared to those who drank less than once a week.
Their findings held up even after adjusting for other factors such as age, gender, calorie intake, diet quality, physical activity and the presence of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
The data collected did not distinguish between the types of artificial sweeteners used in the drinks.
Although lead researcher Matthew Pase of the Boston University School of Medicine acknowledged that the findings showed only a correlation — and not causation — he said they do provide one more piece of evidence that diet drinks are not as healthy an alternative to sugary drinks as many people think.
“We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages,” he said in a statement.
Pase added that the study shows a need to direct more research to this area, given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages.
More Reasons to Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
A new study, published in the journal Nature this September, reveals that for some, artificial sweeteners can lead to type 2 diabetes. But that’s not the only thing you have to fear if you’re gulping down artificially sweetened products.
Artificial sweeteners can lead to type 2 diabetes
The new research, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, found that depending on your gut microbes, you are either able to handle artificial sweeteners or you react to them negatively.
The researchers looked at the consumption of the sweeteners aspartame, sucralose and saccharine. After consuming them, some of the study participants increased their levels of blood sugar two to four times, depending on their intestinal flora.
Those who consumed the largest amount of artificial sweeteners were more likely to have problems controlling their blood sugar level, which can lead to diabetes.
The research changed the view that artificial sweeteners cannot be digested, therefore cannot lead to diabetes. It now appears that it all depends on the microbes you have in your gut. They influence your ability to process artificial sweeteners.
By substituting sugar for artificial sweeteners, you are very likely to trade one evil for another, especially if you fall to the group of people that can’t process the toxic sweeteners.
The Dangers of Aspartame
Aspartame is America’s most commonly used artificial sweetener. It’s found in over 6,000 products worldwide, especially in soda products.
Diet sodas are being marketed as a safe and healthy alternative, but 75% of adverse reactions to food additives are attributed to aspartame. These reactions range from mild to severe, and include headaches, seizures, and even deaths.
In the human body, aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde, which is highly toxic, especially when consumed in larger quantities.
A Harvard based study showed that men who drank more than one diet soda per day, had a heightened risk of developing multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
All in all, it’s far better to stick to natural sweeteners, such as stevia, honey and maple syrup. But consume these in moderation.
What About Diet Energy Drinks?
Scott Willoughby, lead researcher from the Cardiovascular Research Center at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia, reports that one hour after drinking just one can of a popular energy drink, blood consistency of the research participants became abnormal and resembled that of a heart patient.
Let’s have a look at natural sugar substitutes that are healthier alternatives to sugar.
5 Best Natural Sugar Substitutes
The leaves of the stevia plant have a natural sweet taste and medicinal properties. It has no calories and it doesn’t increase blood sugar levels or cause dental cavities.
Stevia is available as a powder or concentrated liquid. Stevia prevents the growth of bacteria and other infectious organisms. It’s also good as an antiseptic mouthwash, improves digestion, and helps strengthen the heart and vascular system.
When you buy stevia products look for a minimum of additives in the product, or just add a fresh leaves to a cup of tea. You can also make an extract by adding 1 cup of warm water to 1/3 cup fresh finely chopped stevia leaves. Infuse it for 24 hours, strain into a clean bottle, refrigerate and use to sweeten drinks. Use it within 1 month.
Although honey mostly contains simple sugars and water, it has many medicinal properties, including the ability to heal skin wounds when applied topically, as well as relieving colon ulcers.
It is a healthier option due to its levels of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. It also has antibiotic properties and it is rich in antioxidants, making it effective in fighting respiratory infections.
Especially good is Manuka honey that contains unique antibacterial and antiseptic compounds that are helpful for stomach ulcers, colds and coughs. Store away from light at a room temperature to retain its properties.
You can use honey as a simple cough syrup which is rich in vitamin C: combine 1 tsp. of honey with a little bit of lemon juice and grated fresh ginger.
Further reading: Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Honey.
3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a made from the sap of a maple tree. It is rich in compounds that have anticancer and antibacterial properties, as well as manganese and zinc that contribute to heart health, increasing men fertility and protect against prostate enlargement.
Maple syrup also contains a lot more calcium than honey and less sodium. It has also shown to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
When you buy maple syrup look for 100% organic maple syrup. You can add it to coffee, tea, porridge or marinades. You can also drizzle or mix it into sweet potato mash.
For cleansing and detoxing of 1 day fast mix 3/4 cup maple syrup, juice of 3 small lemons, 2 tsp cayenne pepper and 7 cups of purified water. Drink throughout the day.
4. Molasses (treacle)
This dark brown syrup is made when sugar cane is turned into refined sugar. Although it provides the same energy boost as refined sugar, it is rich in calcium which is good for strong bones, iron to enrich the blood, potassium to relieve muscle cramps, and B vitamins to help metabolism and strengthen the nervous system.
When you buy molasses make sure it doesn’t contain sulphur as a preservative (unsulphured molasses). It is great for baking and gives baked goods a distinctive flavor. It is also used in barbecue sauces and baked beans.
You can add 1 tsp of molasses to ginger tea as a remedy for abdominal cramps, or take it first thing in the morning as a natural laxative and energy booster. It’s also useful for those who suffer constipation associated with iron supplements.
5. Date Sugar
Date sugar is made from very finely chopped dry dates. The problem is that it doesn’t dissolve like other sugars, making it an impractical additive in drinks. When baked, it may appear like small brown flecks and gives an overall sweetness to baked goods.
Date sugar is sweeter than regular or brown sugar, so some people use 2/3 cup date sugar for every 1 cup of sugar. But if you don’t want to bake with this sugar, you can still find other uses for it, for example, you can sprinkle it on top of a plain yogurt and fruit, or sprinkle it on top of pancakes or waffles.
Many people like date sugar because it goes through minimal processing and is considered more natural than sugar derived from sugar cane. You’re can find date sugar in natural foods stores or buy it online.
Controversial Sugar Substitutes
1. Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is made from sap of the coconut palm which is then boiled and dehydrated. It is claimed to have a low glycemic index and retains some of the nutrients found in the coconut palm.
Why is it controversial – There are no published standards for coconut palm sugar production, and many of the nutrient claims may be unestablished. Also there are doubts regarding the glycemic index as no major studies have been made. Also some brands may be mixed with cane sugar or other ingredients, and the quality of the coconut palm sugar itself can vary greatly depending on the type of tree the sap is collected from, the age of the tree and the time of year. All these factors haven’t been studied or standardized.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is found in low concentrations in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables. It can be extracted from the plant fiber of birch trees, various berries, plums, corn and various other fruits and vegetables.
Xylitol is low in calories compared to white sugar, and has a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, so it is absorbed more slowly than sugar, and doesn’t contribute to increasing blood sugar levels, and that makes it a good choice for diabetics and others who suffer from blood sugar issues.
This is a tooth friendly sugar that also has plaque reducing effects as confirmed by research. It is added to some chewing gums and other oral care products such as toothpastes to prevent tooth decay and dry mouth.
Why it is controversial – Although it is considered harmless for humans, don’t leave xylitol out around your pets, as even small amounts can be fatal for dogs. Some people argue that this is a sign that it’s toxic to us as well. Another point is that although xylitol is a naturally occurring substance, commercially-available xylitol is produced through a chemical process which makes it a highly processed product. Xylitol can also cause diarrhea and intestinal gas as side effects.
3. Agave Syrup
This syrup comes from a plant indigenous to Central and South America. It is fast becoming the preferred sweetener for health-conscious consumers as well as diabetics who have found agave to be an alternative to conventional sweeteners.
It comes as a liquid, similar to a runny honey. Many people believe that it has a low glycemic index that provides sweetness without the unpleasant sugar rush that is associated with processed sugars or artificial corn syrup.
Why it is controversial – Agave syrup is highly processed just like other sugars. According to WebMD website, nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally.