Sometimes washing down a meal with an ice-cold soda seems like the best idea in the world, and while occasional bubbly beverages are okay, you may want to steer clear of drinking them too often. Why? It turns out that soda might be linked to cognitive issues like dementia.
Recent academic studies have revealed the adverse effects of consuming large quantities of soda. Research shows that sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks can contribute to weight gain as well as a heightened risk of high blood pressure, raised blood-sugar levels, diabetes, and heart disease. Not to mention, they could contribute to osteoporosis and liver disease. In fact, some studies suggest that the massive quantities of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks could potentially be as damaging to the liver as drinking alcohol.
However, drinking a lot of soda regularly could also be bad for your brain. In 2021, a consumer research company called 24/7 Tempo analyzed studies around soda consumption that were published by nonprofit health organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. One of the major concerns they brought up was soda’s links to cognitive decline, like developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, or similar conditions.
Another 2017 paper discovered that people who drank soda regularly were three times more likely to develop dementia and stroke than those who didn’t. The research was a follow-up to a larger previous study that discovered ongoing sugary beverage consumption led to smaller brain volume and poorer memory. In fact, participants could start to see these side effects from having just two artificially sweetened drinks per day.
While researchers are quick to point out that there isn’t currently a direct causal link between soda and dementia, it’s worth looking into. “These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion,” explained Sudha Seshadri, MD, a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. Moreover, switching from regular soda to diet varieties or other artificially sweetened drinks won’t solve the underlying problem. “It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.”
As for what you should drink instead of soda, there’s only one alternative to consider, though it’s a little boring. “Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to,” Dr. Seshadri noted. Drink up!