Sweeteners during pregnancy: are they safe?

by | Jul 15, 2019 | Blog

If you’re confused about whether sweeteners during pregnancy are safe, I don’t blame you, because depending upon who you’ll ask, you’ll get a different answer.  In this blog we look at the arguments from people on both sides of the fence. 

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you!  If you’re watching this, you must really care about the health of your growing baby. Current research suggests that around three-quarters of packaged foods contain some kind of added sweetener, so the question becomes: are sweeteners during pregnancy safe? Unfortunately it’s not a black and white answer.. 

Why sweeteners are safe during pregnancy:

Most government guidelines, including but not limited to Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the European Union state that sweeteners are safe during pregnancy, so we should feel safe consuming foods containing sweeteners during pregnancy.  And’ let’s face it, although having a diet soft drink may not be nourishing our baby like a glass of milk does, it’s not going to cause a miscarriage.

But, when we look closely at the research, which I have, there are some academics who have found that consuming sweeteners during pregnancy can be problematic. 

Why sweeteners may not be safe during pregnancy:

Firstly, it’s important to note that sweeteners such as saccharine cross your placenta, meaning that your baby is exposed to these chemicals at a very young age, so even though they may be considered ‘safe’ in adults, I personally don’t believe that there’s been enough research done specifically on sweeteners during pregnancy. And yes, I do say ‘safe’ in quotation marks as there are some studies that question the impact of sweeteners in adult health as well.

Although they’ve been found NOT to cause cancer, controversy remains over their impact on obesity and metabolic health.  An interesting study was published by Dr Sylvetsky and colleagues in Washington who asked many of the same questions that I ask about the impact of sweeteners on the metabolic health and taste preferences of growing babies. Furthermore, a Danish study of pregnant Mum’s found that those who drank soft drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners were more likely to have babies with high body fat levels at birth, and who were more likely to be overweight or obese when they were followed up seven years later, than Mum’s who drank water during pregnancy. Now, I know this is only one study, but given the problems with childhood obesity, I think it’s an important one.

Secondly, there was a landmark study which found that women who drank large quantities of artificially sweetened soft drinks during pregnancy were more likely to have pre-term births… that means going into labour before your baby is old enough, and his or her organs aren’t developed enough for the outside world just yet. 

In summary… 

Personally, I believe the message is this: avoid sweeteners wherever you can, especially during pregnancy, BUT don’t stress if you’ve had some already or you accidentally have some when you’re eating out as someone else’s guest. They are ‘safe’, but whole foods like fresh fruit will be a lot more nourishing for both you, and the little one growing inside you. 

Now, if you would like help with nourishing your baby during pregnancy, I’d love you to download my free pregnancy meal plan.  Just go to www.melaniemcgrice.com/pregnancy.

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