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Are artificial sweeteners safe during pregnancy?
Yes says Atlanta nutritionist Rachel Brandeis, R.D., American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.
Overall, the studies show that certain sweeteners consumed in an acceptable daily intake are safe during pregnancy. Saccharin (Sweet 'n Low) is the exception: The fetus metabolizes it slowly. Since animal studies showed that neonatal exposure increased cancer risk, I tell pregnant women to stay away from saccharin. The safety of the other sweeteners--aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda)--has been determined in rat studies; there was no change in the size of litters, body weight growth or mortality with high intakes of these sweeteners. Keep in mind, however, that all the studies deeming sweeteners safe have been done on animals. I tell women that it is better to avoid these non-nutritive foods during pregnancy so they can consume nutritious foods instead, but if once in a while they drink a Diet Coke with Splenda, they are not going to hurt their baby.
No says nutritionist Janet Starr Hull, Ph.D., author of Splenda: Is it Safe or Not? (Pickle Press, 2005).
These sweeteners are chemical foods, and pregnant women should not eat or drink them. The chemicals cross the placenta, and the fetus gets whatever the mother consumes. Research suggests that aspartame, which breaks down to methanol, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, raises risk of cleft palate in the fetus. Methanol is wood alcohol, and alcohol has no place in pregnancy nutrition. I believe that saccharin--the sweetener once said to cause cancer--is safer than the other chemical sugar substitutes; its cancer warning labels have now been removed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As a nutritionist, I believe that pregnant women should eat a whole-foods diet that doesn't include diet products. Not only are artificial sweeteners bad for the fetus, they have been linked with stomach problems, migraines, insomnia, high blood pressure and weight gain in adults and children.