Is it OK to Use Artificial and Other Low-Calorie Sweeteners in Pregnancy?
Some people like to use low-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar. These can be:
- "Artificial" sweeteners, which are are made in a lab, such as saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame.
- "Natural" sweeteners, which come from plants, such as sorbitol, xylitol, stevia, and monk fruit extract.
Most low-calorie sweeteners that the FDA has approved or recognized as safe are OK to use in moderation during pregnancy. Scientists are still studying their effects on children and pregnant women. But to date, many studies have shown them to generally be safe in small quantities, even during pregnancy.
What Low-Calorie Sweeteners Should I Avoid?
If you're pregnant and you have (or your partner has) a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU), avoid aspartame. That's because your baby could be born with the condition, in which the body can't break down the compound phenylalanine, which is found in aspartame.
A sweetener called cyclamate is banned in the United States because of concerns about a possible link to cancer. It might still be used in other countries, so avoid it when traveling.
Are There Any Risks to a Baby?
There were concerns in the past that some low-calorie sweeteners, such as saccharin, might cause cancer or birth defects. But scientific studies have found no evidence to support these concerns.
Studies continue to see if using low-calorie sweeteners during pregnancy might affect unborn children in other ways. For example, some studies have shown that if a mom consumes a lot of low-calorie sweeteners during pregnancy, it can increase her baby’s chances of being overweight later on or can change the way a child might taste sweetness in a food.
What Else Should I Know?
Moderation is the key. It's OK to have an occasional diet soda or sugar-free food with low-calorie sweeteners. But many foods that contain them are processed and not always healthy. It’s best to stick with unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables when you crave something sweet and tasty.