Pregnant women who drink artificially sweetened drinks every day may be more likely to give birth to heavier babies who are then more likely to become overweight children, a new study from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in Canada reports.
This is the first study to investigate the potential effect of consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy and infant weight gain. Interestingly, the researchers did not find any connection between drinking sugar-sweetened drinks and infant weight.
And the effects were not explained by maternal weight, diet, total calories consumed or other obesity risk factors.
Although the study didn’t prove that artificially sweetened drinks cause infant weight gain, “caution is warranted,” the researchers said.
For the study, the investigators collected data on more than 3,000 mothers and their babies. The women were asked what drinks they consumed during pregnancy. Nearly 30 percent said they drank artificially sweetened beverages, including 5 percent who reported drinking them on a daily basis.
The consumption of artificially sweetened drinks was determined by how often women drank soda or iced tea containing artificial sweeteners or added sweeteners to coffee or tea. It is not known which artificial sweeteners were consumed in each case.
The potential link between artificial sweeteners and heavier babies may be that artificial sweeteners impair the body’s built-in mechanisms for sensing calorie intake and responding with feelings of fullness.
However, it may not be that artificially sweetened beverages cause these effects on the fetus and young child. It could instead be the physical and biological characteristics of the women who choose to consume these beverages frequently.
Since it is not yet known if these are real causal effects, women should refrain from consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy, the researchers advise.
Source: JAMA Pediatrics, May 9, 2016.
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