Drinking diet beverages during pregnancy linked to child obesity, study suggests

June 6, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Children born to women who had gestational diabetes and drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage per day during pregnancy were more likely to be overweight or obese at age 7, compared to children born to women who had gestational diabetes and drank water instead of artificially sweetened beverages, according to a study led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Childhood obesity is known to increase the risk for certain health problems later in life, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. The study appears online in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

According to the study authors, as the volume of amniotic fluid increases, pregnant tend to increase their consumption of fluids. To avoid extra calories, many replace sugar-sweetened soft drinks and juices with beverages containing . Citing prior research implicating artificially sweetened beverages in weight gain, the study authors sought to determine if diet beverage consumption during could influence the weight of children.

"Our findings suggest that artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy are not likely to be any better at reducing the risk for later than sugar-sweetened beverages," said the study's senior author, Cuilin Zhang, Ph.D., in the Epidemiology Branch at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). "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 researchers analyzed data collected from 1996 to 2002 by the Danish National Birth Cohort, a long-term study of pregnancies among more than 91,000 women in Denmark. At the 25th week of pregnancy, the women completed a detailed questionnaire on the foods they ate. The study also collected data on the children's weight at birth and at 7 years old.

In the current study, the NICHD team limited their analysis to data from more than 900 pregnancies that were complicated by , a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy.

Approximately 9 percent of these women reported consuming at least one artificially sweetened beverage each day. Their children were 60 percent more likely to have a high birth weight, compared to children born to women who never drank sweetened beverages. At age 7, children born to mothers who drank an artificially sweetened beverage daily were nearly twice as likely to be overweight or obese.

Consuming a daily artificially sweetened beverage appeared to offer no advantages over consuming a daily sugar-sweetened beverage. At age 7, children born to both groups were equally likely to be overweight or obese. However, women who substituted water for sweetened beverages reduced their children's obesity risk at age 7 by 17 percent.

It is not well understood why drinking artificially sweetened beverages compared to drinking water may increase obesity risk. The authors cited an animal study that associated weight gain with changes in the types of bacteria and other microbes in the digestive tract. Another animal study suggested that artificial sweeteners may increase the ability of the intestines to absorb the blood sugar glucose. Other researchers found evidence in rodents that, by stimulating taste receptors, artificial sweeteners desensitized the animals' digestive tracts, so that they felt less full after they ate and were more likely to overeat.

The authors caution that more research is necessary to confirm and expand on their current findings. Although they could account for many other factors that might influence children's , such as breastfeeding, diet and physical activity levels, their study couldn't definitively prove that maternal artificially sweetened beverage consumption caused the to gain . The authors mention specifically the need for studies that use more contemporary data, given recent upward trends in the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages. They also call for additional investigation on the effects of drinking artificially sweetened beverages among high-risk racial/ethnic groups.

Explore further: Artificially sweetened beverages consumed in pregnancy linked to increased infant BMI

More information: Yeyi Zhu et al. Maternal consumption of artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy, and offspring growth through 7 years of age: a prospective cohort study, International Journal of Epidemiology (2017). DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyx095

Related Stories

Artificially sweetened beverages consumed in pregnancy linked to increased infant BMI

May 9, 2016
Daily consumption of artificially sweetened beverages by women during pregnancy may be associated with increased infant body mass index (BMI) and may be associated with an increased risk of being overweight in early childhood, ...

Exchanging one sugar-sweetened soft drink or beer with water is associated with lower incidence of obesity

May 18, 2017
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity shows that replacing one serving of sugar-sweetened soft drink or one beer a day with a glass of water could reduce the risk of becoming obese by 20%. The ...

Sugary drinks more affordable across the globe

May 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Sugar-sweetened beverages have become more affordable worldwide, making the fight against obesity even more difficult, a new study suggests.

Kids' sugary drink habits start early

January 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—Despite health messages to limit sodas and other sugary beverages, most American children drink them often, new government statistics show.

New study says soft drink consumption not the major contributor to childhood obesity

June 14, 2012
Most children and youth who consume soft drinks and other sweetened beverages, such as fruit punch and lemonade, are not at any higher risk for obesity than their peers who drink healthy beverages, says a new study published ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.