Mothers who regularly consume artificial sweeteners during pregnancy, such as in soft drinks, are more likely to give birth to infants who will become overweight, a new study warns. Child obesity is considered a public health concern in most western countries, where up to one third of children are thought to be overweight or obese.
The current study aimed to analyze the effect of daily consumption of artificial sweeteners – known as nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) on pregnant women, specifically to determine whether it had any effect on the infant’s BMI. The findings indicate that, although there were no measurable effects on the infant’s birth weight, at 1 year of age toddlers whose mothers had consumed artificial sweeteners had an increased BMI, which in turn, increased the risk of the infant becoming overweight.
The study surveyed data from 2413 participants, with an average age of 32.4 years. Out of them, over a quarter, namely 29.5% drank artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy, with 5.1 percent reporting a daily consumption. Compared to the infants whose mothers did not drink any artificially sweetened drinks, the infants of participants who did so during pregnancy showed an increased BMI at one year of age and were exposed to a two-fold risk of becoming overweight in later life.
Childhood obesity is considered an epidemic in most developed countries and, ever since sugar has been linked to obesity, consumption of NNS has soared. Most artificial sweeteners are found in soft drinks but can also be used to sweeten a wide range of processed food. However, little research has been conducted to establish the effects of artificial sweeteners consumption on human health.
According to the researchers who conducted the study, this is the first research to establish a link between human consumption of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy and childhood obesity. The findings are likely to become a warning sign for those who believed exposure to NNS during pregnancy was less harmful than exposure to sugar, known for its ill effects. Hence, the health effects of artificial sweeteners, a popular replacements for sugar, are to receive more attention from both the scientific community and the public. The team of researchers indicated studying the long-term effects of exposure to artificial sweeteners during pregnancy as a possible direction for further studies.
Image source: Pixabay