(NaturalNews) Pregnant women who drink artificially sweetened soft drinks are more likely to give birth prematurely, according to a study conducted by researchers from researchers from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"These findings may be really important in terms of preventing premature births, especially those that are medically induced by a woman's health care provider," said Shelley McGuire, a spokesperson for the American Society of Nutrition. "Certainly, until more experimental work is done, this study suggests that pregnant women should steer clear of artificially sweetened drinks."
Researchers questioned nearly 60,000 pregnant Danish women about their consumption of sweetened beverages. They found that women who drank one serving per day of a carbonated, artificially sweetened beverage were 38 percent more likely to give birth prematurely than women who did not consume such drinks. Women who consumed four or more serving of such drinks daily increased their risk of premature delivery by 78 percent. A similar, albeit smaller risk was seen for non-carbonated, artificially sweetened drinks. There was no increase in risk associated with sugary drinks.
A premature birth was defined as a delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy. Only deliberately induced premature deliveries were associated with artificial sweeteners; there was no connection between the sweeteners and spontaneous premature births. This suggests that artificial sweeteners may cause distress in either the fetus or mother that leads doctors to induce early delivery.
The exact cause of the connection could not be determined, but scientists believe that toxic breakdown products of the sweeteners might play some role. The sweetener aspartame, for example, is broken down in the body to phenylalanine.
"Large doses of phenylalanine are toxic to the brain and can cause mental retardation and seizures in people with a particular genetic disorder called phenylketonuria," writes Debra Lynn Dadd in the book Nontoxic, Natural and Earthwise.
"Other people experience headaches, depression, mood swings, high blood pressure, insomnia, and behavior problems," Dadd writes.
"Aspartame is not recommended for use by pregnant women as it is known to cause birth defects."