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Study: Diet Drinks Triple the Risk of Having a Stroke and Getting Dementia + Best Sugar Substitutes

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diet soda causes barain damage

Diet Soda’s Worst Fear Coming True: Massive Study links Aspartame to Major Problems

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.


Study Limitations

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.

Related: Massive Studies Link Soda To Heart Attacks, Brain Damage, Depression, Kidney Damage and More

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. (1) 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.


Over 900 scientific studies have exposed that aspartame is detrimental to health, and linked it with leukemia, breast cancer, epilepsy, asthma deterioration, and Parkinson’s disease.

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.

In addition, massive studies link soda to heart attacks, brain damage, depression, and kidney damage.

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?

Popular energy drinks have now been associated with cardiovascular problems, including stroke and heart attack according to a study.

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.

You can find the exact names and types of the energy drinks to avoid in this article.

Let’s have a look at natural sugar substitutes that are healthier alternatives to sugar.

5 Best Natural Sugar Substitutes

1. Stevia

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.

Further reading: Stevia: Is it safe, Proven Benefits, Side Effects (Science Based)

2. Honey

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.

2. Xylitol

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.

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28 Responses to Study: Diet Drinks Triple the Risk of Having a Stroke and Getting Dementia + Best Sugar Substitutes

  1. Leslie Feland says:

    The only thing that is not a sugar on your SUGAR SUBSTITUTE list is stevia. All the rest are just sugar in another form and your body does not know the difference. It uses them the same…and stevia is disgusting.

    • Jenny says:

      In this article I present HEALTHIER alternatives to sugar. It doesn’t mean that they are healthy and should be consumed in high quantities. All it means is that they have several advantages that sugar doesn’t have, such as additional vitamins and minerals (honey, maple and molasses) or that they don’t increase sugar levels as high as in sugar (agave syrup). As for stevia – it’s a matter of taste, and some people may like it and get used to it, and some not. It’s still a viable option for many people.

      • Joy says:

        I use Stevia. The thing is you have to get the amount right. It takes a tiny bit of Stevia to equal a teaspoon of sugar. Also you can not put it directly in any iced drink. It will not breakdown. You have to disolve it in a small amount of room temperature water and then mix it into cold drinks. You should only taste sweet and not a bitter taste. I use it in the breads I bake and anything I cook. It takes a little experimenting to get the amount right for your tastebuds.

  2. Monica Godinez says:

    I like your article, thank you for sharing. I love Stevia! 🙂

  3. Jamie says:

    Xylitol is also a great and healthy sugar substitute! It can be used in pretty much anything but I really like how some companies put it in gum as a replacement for table sugar or aspartame. It is also very good for your teeth.

    • Charlene says:

      xylitol is a sugar alcohol and completely indigestable….bacteria in the gut love it and grow….avoid it. Honey is your best alternative…it is only one molecule and does not require digestion for absorption therefore it skips the large intestine and does not become lunch for those bad bugs in the gut.

    • Mary Ellen Carroll says:

      Xylitol is fatally dangerous for animals.

  4. Teri McGowan says:

    I am growing Stevia. But I don’t know how to process myself. Either in a liquid or powder form. Can you please help?

  5. DON OCONNELL says:

    I want to THANK YOU , EVERY effort to educate on this is welcomed and your article went above and beyond – your efforts are quite obvious and appreciated. I look forward to more info on Coconut Palm Sugar – my preferred substitute.

  6. Catherine says:

    Wonderful list of alternative, more organic forms of sugar. Remember that sugar is sugar, and we must still watch our overall intake. That said, these are far superior forms to processed white sugar!!

  7. Tammy says:

    I have been drinking tea since I was about 16. I’m 48 now. I drink about 10 cups(mugs) a day with 4 and 1/2 heaping teaspoons of sugar in each. It most definitely has taken a toll on my teeth. But it has not caused ANY other health issues. I’m 5’6″ @ 150lbs. Mrs Obama would call me obese but I am the perfect weight for my height. Yes I have a little bit of belly fat but only because I injured my back years ago and cannot physically do a lot. I asked my doctor when I was much younger if consuming so much sugar would hurt me. He said other than your teeth no. But if you go without it meaning the tea and the sugar you can experience withdrawal. He was right! When I don’t have a certain amount of tea throughout the day I get a headache than sometimes turns into a migraine. But I get tested for all those other things and the Dr I have now says I’m good. Once at a family function my husband’s family was teasing me about the amount of sugar I consume. My brother in law is a diabetic. He tested everyone and I had the best number – even better than those who try and avoid sugar. I’m not trying to say you are all wrong… but I think everyone’s body is different and some can tolerate sugar more than others.

    • Jenny says:

      It’s all a matter of personal choice. At the end of the day, everyone is free to do what he/she feels best for him/her.

  8. Christina says:

    Have you considered Munk Fruit? I use Munk Fruit in the Raw. But I don’t find much information on it. I know it is a fruit from Africa, at least that is what I have heard, and it is good for diabetics, it has no to a slight aftertaste, I don’t taste it but some do. I would like to know more about it and your take on it. Thank you for all you do to enlighten us.

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Christina, I’m personally not familiar with monk fruit (also called Luo Han Guo), but researching it I’ve found that as you’ve said it should be in it’s raw form as Splenda has marketed their version of monk fruit sweetener as Nectresse that contains monk fruit powder but with other additives (erythritol, sugar and molasses), so the recommendation is for pure monk fruit sweetener (also called lou han sweetener) with no additives. It’s “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA but it has been poorly tested in animals. So far there are no obvious known side effects yet. I would say it’s worth a try if you are looking for a non-caloric, natural sweetener, especially if you don’t like the taste of stevia.

  9. Ravinder says:

    Where from I get Stevia

  10. Cindy Reynolds says:

    I want to use honey…but seen it is really high in carbs….trying to do lo carb to loose weight…so this makes it difficult!! Have recently been diagnosed with diabetes….so quit real sugar altogether and lost #15….would hate to gain that back by using honey or make my blood sugar go up….so is honey bad for blood sugar?…I am assuming it is!!

    • Donna Reeves says:

      High sugar in your blood is not from eating sugar. It is from eating fat. The fat in your blood prevents the sugar in your blood from entering your muscle cells. Fat inside the muscle cells also prevents sugar from entering the muscle. The best way to lower your blood sugar is to stop eating fat. In a few days your blood sugar will start to be lower as your body clears out the fat and the sugar is allowed to enter the muscle where it belongs.

      • fishinmom says:

        OMG who told you that? I hope you have solid facts to back that up! I think before you start recommending things to people you should really be able to back them up. This is so far from the truth it’s not funny. Eating fat does not cause high blood sugar, where ever you thing your read the information you posted – I think you should reread. Eating sugar and carbohydrates causes your blood sugar to rise plain and simple.

  11. Astra says:

    love iherb Most shown substitutes still have lots calories. Stevia is good but for these who can bear its aftertaste . Erythritol is the best substitute – it is IS NATURAL, doesn’t cause side effects and tastes almost exactly like sugar WITHOUT THE CALORIES.

  12. Irfan Mohammed says:

    I use Lowkal Stevia. It is 50% as sweet as table-sugar. I started using this few months back. I tried few other stevia products and within that, this has given me the best taste. Too much of honey is not even good. This is good for all.

  13. tom says:

    I have recently started drinking molasses in hot water. in the morning it is great. but if I have a mug in the evening 3or4 hours after dinner I find im ending up with a lot of gas, sometimes making it uncomfortable to sleep. is this normal with molasses and do you know why it would have this effect? thanks for the great work you do.

    • Jenny says:

      I don’t know the answer, as I would imagine that if from some reason molasses causes you gas, then it will be also in the morning, and not just late in the evening. My only thought is that you need to check that you use unsulfured molasses. Sulfur dioxide can be used during the processing of sugar cane and the production of molasses. Most commonly it is used to lighten the color of the molasses or to help extend its shelf life. Some people complain that the sulfur compound upset their stomach. Make sure that you buy unsulfured molasses or that the product label specifically says “no preservatives”.

  14. Jean says:

    hello Jenny
    i was looking for an article on sugar cane juice on this website but did not find any.
    can sugarcane juice be used as an alternative to sugar? is it true that sugar cane juice has no health risks compared to processed sugar? i read many websites highlighting the health benefits of “freshly pressed sugarcane juice” mixed with lemon juice.of course this kuice has to be hygienically pressed. is it health to drink at least 1 glass every day?


    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Jean, from what I’ve read in other sources, raw sugarcane juice contains several nutrients and minerals and has lower glycemic index. However it should be consumed in moderation (like other sugar substitutes mentioned in the article). Sugarcane still contains a significant number of calories in proportion to the serving size, and while it is a good substitute for refined white sugar, it should still be eaten in small quantities. For the greatest health benefits, consume minimally processed sugarcane juice. This means you consume less sugar per serving while still receiving all the nutritional benefits of sugarcane. It seems to me that consuming 1 glass every day is far too much. I tried to find recommended daily intake for sugarcane juice, and from what I’ve read in Livestrong website, an 8-ounce serving of raw sugar cane juice has roughly 180 calories. It contains no fat but also no dietary fiber, and has 30 grams of sugars, all from the sugar cane itself. So I wouldn’t consume it in large quantities.

  15. JQK says:

    “Not so fast” , everyone ! :

    The study itself concedes
    ( in its section “Discussion” )
    that :


    Previous studies linking artificially sweetened beverage consumption to negative health consequences have been questioned based on concerns regarding residual confounding and reverse causality, whereby sicker individuals consume diet beverages as a means of negating a further deterioration in health.19 

    ( Indeed, in our study, diabetes mellitus—a known risk factor for dementia20—was more prevalent in those who regularly consumed artificially sweetened soft drinks. Diabetes mellitus status also partially mediated the association between artificially sweetened soft drink intake and incident dementia. )

    Because our study was observational, we are unable to determine whether artificially sweetened soft drink intake increased the risk of incident dementia through diabetes mellitus or whether people with diabetes mellitus were simply more likely to consume diet beverages. 

    . . .

    It remains unclear whether artificial sweeteners cause hypertension {or other diseases} , or whether diet beverages are favored by those most at risk.


    Moreover, the study also says that
    it included data only up til 2001,
    when, as many of us might recall, saccharin, now known to be slightly carcinogenic etc, was still perhaps the most popular of artificial sweeteners, & when, e.g., both aspartame & acesulfame were still barely being used at all.

    (And the slight increased glucose intolerance found from artificial sweeteners is perhaps because many probiotics that live on sugar will die off once once the avg. sugar intake drops, leaving more of the occasional sugar to be absorbed into the blood and to flood the tissues.)

    So, all in all, the study leaves us with actually no evidence that artificial sweeteners, esp. the successors of saccharin, cause any disease whatsoever.

    ( The study can be read by clicking on the italicized & blue-colored title “Stroke”, within the article’s introductory section. )

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