Artificial sweeteners may not provide their sweetness without a consequence, shows a National Institutes of Health study, released Jan. 8. There have been many other studies done to test the safety of artificial sweeteners, but this is the first study to suggest that there might be a link with health consequences, specifically mental health consequences.
The study was conducted on 250,000 people between 50-80 years old and found that depression was more common among individuals who frequently consumed artificially sweetened beverages, like diet soda or certain juices. Individuals who drank four cans or glasses of diet soda or artificially sweetened juices every day were 30% more likely to have depression.
On a positive note, people who consumed four or more cups of coffee in a day were 10% less likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who did not drink coffee. They do not clarify whether this includes people who may use artificial sweeteners in their coffee.
Obviously, as with any research, there are limitations to this study. First, the sample is based on an older cohort and may not be generalizable to the entire population, especially younger individuals. Second, people who are obese might be more likely to drink diet beverages and obesity is known to be associated with depression. Additionally, this is only one study and will need to be replicated on different populations to validate the link.
Although there is more research needed, this study shows a link between depression and artificial sweeteners that has not been seen before. It does not mean that artificial sweeteners cause depression or vice versa, but it is important to be aware of when making decisions for your health.