Drinking diet beverages during pregnancy linked to child obesity

The study focused on women diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Pregnancy news, 07/06/2017

A study by the National Institutes of Health has found that children born to mothers who drank an artificially sweetened (diet) drink every day during pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to be overweight by the age of 7.

They were also 60 per cent more likely to have a high birth weight, compared to children born to women who drank only water.

The study compared women with gestational diabetes who drank artificially sweetened (diet) drinks, sugary drinks and water during their pregnancy.

Women who drank water instead of diet drinks decreased the risk of their child becoming obese by 17 per cent.

Cuilin Zhang, the study’s senior author says,

‘Our findings suggest that artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy are not likely to be any better at reducing the risk for later childhood obesity than sugar-sweetened beverages.

‘Not surprisingly, we also observed that children born to women who drank water instead of sweetened beverages were less likely to be obese by age 7.’

The study authors suggest that as the volume of amniotic fluid increases, pregnant women tend to increase their intake of fluids. To avoid extra calories, many pregnant women replace sugar-sweetened drinks and juices with diet drinks that contain artificial sweeteners.

Researchers found that there was no advantage to drinking a diet beverage over a sugar-sweetened beverage as children born to both groups were equally likely to be overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is known to increase the risk of health problems in later life, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

We suggest that instead of drinking fizzy drinks, squash, energy drinks, cordials and fruit juice during pregnancy, to try:

  • Still, sparkling or tap water
  • Fruit or herbal tea
  • Semi-skimmed or skimmed milk

Discover more food swaps for a healthy pregnancy.

More nutrition in pregnancy

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