A new study has found that daily consumption of artificially sweetened beverages by the women during pregnancy may be linked with increased infant body mass index (BMI) and thus may be associated with an increased risk of being overweight in early childhood.
Researchers found that obesity may be rooted in early life with more than 20 percent of preschool children classified as overweight or obese.
Meghan B. Azad, Ph.D., of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, and coauthors studied to examine the association of consuming artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy and its effect on infant BMI in the first year of life.
Study results indicated that daily consumption of artificially sweetened beverages, compared with no consumption of such beverages, was associated with an increase in infant BMI z score and a two-fold increased risk of an infant being overweight at one year of age. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was not associated with infant BMI z scores.
The authors acknowledge study limitations that include the potential for error in self-reported dietary outcomes. The study also cannot prove a causal association.
"To our knowledge, our results provide the first human evidence that artificial sweetener consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of early childhood overweight.
Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity and the widespread consumption of artificial sweeteners, further research is warranted to replicate our findings in other cohorts, evaluate specific NNS and longer-term outcomes, and study the underlying biological mechanisms," the authors conclude.
The study is published in the journal of JAMA Pediatrics.