Diet Drinks in Pregnancy May Increase Obesity Risk for Kids

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The study of more than 3,000 pregnant women and their babies offers a new clue about childhood obesity -- and delivers another blow to the reputation of artificial sweeteners.

When I was pregnant, my doctor told me to avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. In fact, she told me if I really had a soda craving, then I should opt for a sugared soda like Coke or Pepsi instead of their diet counterparts.

It turns out, that was some pretty darn good advice. A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests a link between overweight babies and children and their mothers drinking artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy.

The study, which included more than 3,000 pregnant women and their infants, found that moms who reported consuming drinks with artificial sweeteners in drinks while they were pregnant were twice as likely to have obese children at one year as their counterparts who reported consuming little or none during pregnancy.

“To our knowledge, our results provide the first human evidence that artificial sweetener consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of early childhood overweight,” Meghan Azad, of the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, and colleagues wrote in their report. “Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity and the widespread consumption of artificial sweeteners, further research is warranted to confirm our findings and investigate the underlying biological mechanisms, with the ultimate goal of informing evidence-based dietary recommendations for pregnant women.”

This is just the latest study that reveals the potential health issues associated with consuming no-calorie artificial sweeteners. Says Time:

Artificial sweeteners and non-caloric natural sweeteners like stevia, Azad and others believe, still trigger the brain’s sweetness receptors, and the body prepares itself for the influx of calories that come from sugar. The pancreas still releases insulin, which breaks down sugar, but when that sugar doesn’t come, the body’s metabolism still craves the calories it expects and goes searching for them, often from other foods.

Check out “You Might Want to Put That Diet Soda Down.”

Do you consume artificial sweeteners? What do you think of the study?  Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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