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Diet Soda and Preterm Birth

Aspartame may be the reason that diet soda consumption during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth.

December 3, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to: NCI Visuals Online, Phil Are Go!, and jimforest.


When we learned how bad butter was, the food industry responded by giving us margarine, which… turned out even worse. When dietary guidelines told us to lower our fat intake in hopes that we’d pick up an apple, the   food industry gave us fudge drizzled chocolate chip cookies. Similar reasoning led to the billion dollar diet soda industry. Now with vitamins and minerals! “Intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of preterm delivery: a prospective cohort study in 59,334 pregnant Danes”.    Conclusion: “Daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery.” And it probably wasn’t the caffeine or other additives, since the same sweetened versions of the soda didn’t result in the same problem. So what is it? They think it’s the aspartame: “After ingestion, aspartame is broken down into methanol. Methanol is oxidized into formaldehyde, which isn’t great stuff. This might be one factor explaining reports of headaches linked to the intake of aspartame . Researchers suggest “that the observed shortening of pregnancy could either be related to the effects of methanol on the fetal neuroendocrine system or an indirect action on the mother’s uterus…

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Folks may also be interested in Friday's video-of-the-day Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia. Regular soda may not be a good idea either. High fructose corn syrup may contain mercury and it’s no good for our kids either (Diet Hyperactivity). See Food Industry Funding Effect for a discussion of how studies funded by soft drink corporations may be biased. I've got 32 other videos on pregnancy and hundreds of videos on a thousand other topics.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts:  Aspartame: Fibromyalgia & Preterm BirthIs There a Safe, Low-Calorie Sweetener?, and Heading Shrinking from Grilling Meat

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Not such a sweet trade-off!

    If you’re gonna eat sweets eat the real thing. Preferably organically grown cane sugar. Or Organic Blue Agave or Maple syrup or Stevia. (I have a feeling I am setting myself up here.)

    BTW Love the spell checker!!! That is a great feature!

    • WholeFoodChomper

      For Dr. Greger’s take on the healthiest sweetener options see: The Healthiest Sweetener.

      It seems research suggests Stevia is not a good sweetener to (over)use: Is Stevia Good For You? So, it is best to be careful with this one.

      As far as artificial sweeteners go, erythritol seems to be the best choice A Harmless Artificial Sweetener. Although, I find that it is rather pricey.

      Personally, I depending on what I need sweetened, I use agave syrup, erythritol, or homemade date syrup as my preferred sweeteners of choice.

      Homemade Date Syrup Recipe

      Soak dates in water over night.
      Pit dates.
      Add pitted dates to food processor with soaking water.
      Process as smooth as possible (add more water depending on consistency you like).
      You can leave some in the fridge for immediate use in smoothies, baking, dressings, etc. Or, you can freeze in an ice cube tray for future use.

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        I forgot about the dates! Thanks for that sweet addition ;-)

        • WholeFoodChomper

          You are most welcome! Dates just rock! Don’t they?

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Dates are in my oatmeal every morning. They are delicioso.

      • Tan Truong

        I blend dates in almost all my smoothies.

  • ThatGuy

    If methanol (from aspartame) were the culprit here we’d expect to see a similar negative effect in women who regularly ate apples, drank orange juice, etc. Ounce for ounce many fruit juices actually contain more methanol than that metabolized by the same amount of diet soda. The “pro-aspartame” folks have widely publicized this information in attempting to defend their product.

    Diet soda appears to be a factor here, but it detracts from the author’s credibility when they offers methanol as a likely explanation. Either they’re not aware of the widely publicized information on how common low-levels of methanol already are in our diet or they’re intentionally disregarding this information in reaching their conclusion.

    • erinvalynn

      What you don’t understand is that methanol in apples, oj, etc is always bonded with a natural antidote, rendering it harmless. This antidote is absent in aspartame, therefore there is potential for harmful effects. The way elements in food are bonded together in compounds are just as important, if not more so, than the elements themselves.
      (employed by Wisdom Natural Brands the makers of SweetLeaf Stevia)

    • Thomas Blakeslee

      Fruit juices contain much more ethanol than methanol. Ethanol is the antidote for methanol poisoning.

      This is just the tip of a very large iceberg because diet sodas also cause many of the runaway diseases of civilization through methanol poisoning. Canned goods and smoking are other modern sources of methanol.

      Test animals like rats and monkeys can tolerate 100x more methanol than man so many mistakes have been made by the FDA and others.

  • Kelita Deems

    I started drinking Diet Pepsi in 1985 with aspartame. I got pregnant in 1988 and my doc said diet pepsi was fine. :/ I started pre-term labor at 6 weeks, but they were able to stop it. In 1992, after drinking diet pop for 7 years, I went into labor at 8 weeks and they were not able to stop it. I said then, I bet one day they will publish a report that says Aspartame causes pre-term labor. Sigh

  • Ronald Chavin

    Here’s an interesting study that contradicts the earlier Danish study:

    [In this Norwegian study, people who had a high intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks had a 25% increased incidence of preterm delivery while people who had a high intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks had only an 11% increased incidence of preterm delivery].

    The odds ratios in this study were so close to 1.00 that the real cause of more preterm deliveries could be anything from sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, phosphoric acid, or caffeine to miscalculated or neglected confounding variables to higher polyphenol intake among people who drink various teas or fruit juices instead of soft drinks.