We all know that sugar can be bad for your health… especially when it’s eaten in excess and outside of its natural forms (i.e. fruits and sweet vegetables.) Excess sugar has also been known to contribute to things like heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
One of the most common sources of sugar include sodas and sugary drinks. We know these kinds of drinks are bad for our health overall…
But can they actually hurt your brain?
New research is showing that they may… And switching to something like diet soda may be even worse.
Just 3 Sodas Per Week Could Put You At Risk
While examining medical data from over 4,000 people, researchers at Boston University found a link between increased sugar intake, and various signs of accelerated brain aging . This included diminished memory, lower brain volume, and shrinkage of the hippocampus (a part of the brain involved with memory.)
These brain issues were found at higher rates in people who drank more than 2 sugar drinks per day (any type, including juice), AND in people who drank more than 3 sodas per week. Beyond this, having just 1 or more sodas per day was also associated with lower brain volume.
All of these issues are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Diet Soda May Be Even Worse
Once people realize how bad soda can be, the first instinct is often to turn to diet soda instead. But this could cause even bigger problems…
While examining medical records of stroke and dementia patients, the same researchers from the previous study made another startling discovery.
People who drank 1 or more diet sodas per day were nearly 3 times as likely to have a stroke, or develop dementia (due to Alzheimer’s disease) .
Diet Sodas Can Affect (Damage) Your Brain Chemistry
Though this link to stroke and dementia doesn’t necessarily mean they’re caused by diet sodas… there is evidence that artificial sweeteners can cause imbalances in your brain chemistry overall.
Aspartame for example (one of the most common artificial sweeteners) is known to cause serotonin and dopamine imbalances in the brain [4,5]. This is could create many issues over time, as these are your brain’s “master neurotransmitters.”
Aspartame is also a neurotoxin that can cause damage to brain and nerve cells . And if you eat aspartame together with MSG (monosodium glutamate), the effects could be even worse . This can happen if you eat a bag of beef jerky or chips, with a diet soda for example.
And if these adverse effects aren’t enough… artificial sweeteners can also affect the bacteria in your gut. These sweeteners can over-feed certain bacteria in your digestive system, leading to poor blood sugar control. This can contribute to issues like insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and even liver disease .
Overall, whether it’s regular or diet… drinking too many sodas could put your health at risk over time. This also applies to the health of your brain…
So what should you do about this?
- Drink water and unsweetened tea as much as you can.
- Try natural non-caloric sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. But don’t overdo with these either, because we don’t have definitive research on how they affect your gut bacteria [9,10,11].
- Drink fresh pressed juices and smoothies made with lower sugar fruits (i.e. raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, guavas, acai, etc…)
- Add some healthy fats to your smoothies to help control blood sugar spikes (i.e. avocado, coconut milk, nuts, and seeds)
- Add brain supporting supplements to your daily routine. Supplements that have shown to combat brain shrinkage include b-vitamins [12,13] (b-complex), omega 3 fish oil [14,15] (or algae oil if you’re vegan), and resveratrol .
All of these things can help reduce or eliminate your need for sodas… and keep your brain healthy for a long time.