Researchers who studied more than 3000 Canadian women and their children believe they have found an association between the mothers’ consumption of artificially sweetened drinks (diet drinks) and an increase in body mass index (BMI) numbers in their child by the age of one.
Intriguing findings in new study about diet drinks
According to the report which was published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics, women who drank soft drinks, coffee and other drinks where artificial sweeteners were present on a daily basis were twice as like to have children whose BMI classified them as overweight on their first birthday.
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“To our knowledge, our results provide the first human evidence that artificial sweetener consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of early childhood overweight,” wrote the authors of the study, which was led by Meghan Azad of the University of Manitoba in Canada. The study was quick to point out that no link was found with high-calorie “naturally” flavored (sugar) beverages so the findings are certainly quite interesting.
The authors specifically mentioned “humans” in the journal publication as there has been evidence of a link between artificial sweeteners and offspring with excessive weight gain in laboratory animals. The researchers asked 3,033 mother child pairs to, in the mother’s case, fill out a food questionnaire that looked into frequency of food and drink consumption while 90% of the kids were given a one-year checkup with doctors.
Increase in artificially sweetened beverage intake
Of those surveyed, about 30% said they drank the artificially sweetened drinks during pregnancy with 5% saying they drank them daily. Equal and Splenda packets used in coffee and tea were grouped together with the mass-produced soft drinks in the study.
The researchers also noted that 30% of the woman who were consuming the aforementioned drinks during pregnancy also had elevated BMIs of their own and smoked more than others who participated in the study. The smokers also drank more according to the researchers and as a result breastfed for less time and brought solid foods into their babies lives earlier.
The study also found that birth-weight didn’t vary with the kids whose mothers who drank these beverages and that it was over the first year that their BMIs grew higher and this weight gain was considerably more prevalent in boys than in girls.
More and more people consume artificially sweetened beverages in the United States each year and those numbers seem to have increased with a rise in childhood obesity. This could surely be coincidence but it’s led researchers down a path of determining if there is a link between the two. The researchers, while finding an association, are well aware that further studies are required before any proof can be found. Additionally, the researchers know that the survey is far from ideal as those participating could struggle to accurately remember the number and frequency of their consumption of these beverages.
The study did not differentiate between specific sweeteners nor did they look at artificial sweeteners in candy, gum and food.
That didn’t stop the researchers for summing up their findings with, “given the current epidemic of childhood obesity and the widespread consumption of artificial sweeteners, further research is warranted.”
Suffice is to say, that if you’re pregnant it’s probably better if you look to water rather than artificially sweetened beverages.