Is soda bad for your memory? How about diet soda?

Soda ads feature young, vibrant, clear-eyed, athletic people. It has already been proven that in fact, soda is actually associated with the opposite: obesity and a myriad of chronic diseases that are the stark contrast of athleticism.

And now, researchers from Boston University, led by Matthew Pase, have shown that it may also dull your mind. It is already known from animal studies that excess sugar leads to Alzheimer’s findings in mice brain tissue. Its effect on human brains hasn’t been examined extensively until now.

The researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study – a large cohort that is followed every 2 years for decades.

In the first study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, more than 4200 people with different levels of soda intake underwent neuropsychological assessment as well as MRI scans. And the results: The more sugary drinks the participants had, the lower their brain volume and the poorer their memory scores – these findings are consistent with early Alzheimer’s. This held true even after adjustments for diabetes, smoking, exercise and weight.

How about diet soda?

The second study, just published in Stroke examined the connection between sugary and artificially sweetened drinks in almost 3000 people for stroke and in about 1500 for dementia. The volunteers were followed for about 10 years.

It found that diet soda was associated with both stroke and dementia. This was true after adjustment for age, education, smoking, caloric intake and physical activity.

This isn’t the first time diet soda has been correlated with stroke: The Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals follow-up study both found that diet soda was correlated with stroke. This new study for the first time implicated diet soda with dementia.

No upside to soda

Although association, as shown in these studies, isn’t definitive proof – yet – that soda is detrimental to our your brain, there certainly is absolutely no upside to drinking soda, regular or diet.

Sugar is a clear target for reduction in the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and there’s no better place to start than your drinks. Drinking your added sugar it the worst possible way to consume it, as sugary drinks do not lead to satiety, go in unnoticed, at a really fast rate, and cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin.

The motivation to change habits differs from person to person, for some a warning that soda will ruin your figure is powerful, for others, hearing about the risk of diabetes is scarier.

For me, there’s nothing as alarming as the risk of losing my mental capacity.

These new studies offer yet another finding that can help convince people to rethink the way they drink.

Dr. Ayala