Diet Soda & Preterm Birth

Diet Soda & Preterm Birth
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Aspartame may be the reason that diet soda consumption during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 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 [wood alcohol]. 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].”

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Images thanks to: NCI Visuals OnlinePhil Are Go!; and Jim Forest via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 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 [wood alcohol]. 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].”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to: NCI Visuals OnlinePhil Are Go!; and Jim Forest via flickr

Doctor's Note

Folks may also be interested in Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia. Regular soda may not be a good idea, either. High-fructose corn syrup may contain mercury (see Mercury in Corn Syrup?). And, it’s no good for our kids, either—see Diet & Hyperactivity. For a discussion of how studies funded by soft drink corporations may be biased, see Food Industry “Funding Effect”. I have dozens of other videos on pregnancy, too.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Aspartame: Fibromyalgia & Preterm BirthHead Shrinking from Grilling Meat; and Is There a Safe, Low-Calorie Sweetener? 

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

11 responses to “Diet Soda & Preterm Birth

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  1. 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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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)

    2. 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.

      http://www.whilesciencesleeps.com/pdf/586.pdf

  3. 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

  4. Here’s an interesting study that contradicts the earlier Danish study:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854404

    [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.

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