Diet soda may contribute to childhood obesity, study says

May 11, 2016 Providence Health Team

Moms who drink diet soda during pregnancy may give birth to babies who are overweight by the time they are 1, according to a new study.

Led by Meghan Azad of the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, the study included more than 3,000 women and their babies. The key finding: Children of women who drank diet soda daily during their pregnancies were twice as likely to be overweight at 1 year compared with babies of women who did not drink diet soda.

Risk factors for childhood obesity

The link between weight gain and diet soda was not clear to the Canadian research team. But the researchers believe their study confirms what previous research indicates: Drinking artificially sweetened beverages is associated with:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet quality

The researchers said all of these are maternal risk factors that can lead to childhood obesity.

Appropriate weight gain

Medical researchers know that too much weight gain in women during pregnancy may lead to overweight babies. That’s why health care providers recommend that pregnant women maintain appropriate weight throughout their pregnancy. Here are some guidelines from the National Institutes of Health. Pregnant women who are:

  • Underweight (have a body mass index, or BMI, of less than 18.5) should gain 28 to 40 pounds
  • Normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) should gain 25 to 35 pounds
  • Overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) should gain between 15 and 25 pounds
  • Obese (BMI greater than 30) should limit weight gain to 11 to 20 pounds

A balanced diet

What should you eat during pregnancy? Here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Whole grains: Eat breads, cereals, pastas and brown rice
  • Fruits: Choose fresh, frozen or canned fruit without added sugar
  • Vegetables: Enjoy colorful, fresh, frozen or canned vegetables with no added salt.
  • Lean protein: Choose meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, peanut butter, soy products and nuts.
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy: This includes milk, cheese and yogurt. Avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.
  • Healthful fats: Use vegetable oils such as canola, corn, peanut and olive oil.

If you have questions about drinking diet soda during pregnancy or childhood obesity, talk with your health care provider. You can find a Providence primary care provider, certified nurse-midwife or OB-GYN here.

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