Is Diet Soda Causing Higher BMI for Babies?

Posted In:

A recent study explores the relationship between artificial sweeteners and the body mass index of infants.

Weight is a key issue during pregnancy. Women want to gain just the right amount to nurture the developing baby but not pack on excessive pounds they will need to lose after pregnancy. To manage sugar intake and cut calories, many women turn to beverages with artificial sweeteners.

But according to a study recently published by JAMA Pediatrics, drinking diet beverages may actually be associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) for babies during the first months of life.

The Study

More than 3,000 pregnant women were observed between 2009 and 2012 as part of the study led by Meghan B. Azad, Ph.D., researcher with Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

Women were asked to complete questionnaires during their second and third trimesters, reporting their consumption of artificially sweetened beverages during these developmental months. Then, the height and weight of each baby was measured when babies were 1 year old.

The Findings

Consumption of artificially sweetened beverages was not uncommon. More than 25 percent of women consumed these beverages during pregnancy, with an estimated 5.1 percent of study participants consuming these beverages on a daily basis.

According to study findings, daily intake was associated with a .20 unit increase in each infant’s BMI and a two-fold increase in risk for obesity when the babies reached the age of 1.

The Takeaway

While more research needs to be conducted, data collected to this point indicates that artificial sweetener additives may, in fact, influence the development of babies. Talk with your healthcare provider about a recommended dietary plan to support a healthier pregnancy.

A Head Start in Healthy Habits

Eating well-balanced meals throughout pregnancy will help you and your baby be as strong and healthy as possible. In fact, the American Pregnancy Association notes that nutrition may even improve fertility and make labor easier. Nutrients to focus on during pregnancy include:

  • Folate—Citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges, and berries, such as strawberries, are good sources of this nutrient, which may help reduce the risk of birth defects.

  • Iron—Try to consume 27 grams of this nutrient every day by loading up on leafy greens and whole grains.

  • Protein—Lean meat, legumes and nuts are a few items to add to your grocery list. Aim for 75 to 100 grams per day.

Did You Know?

> Most babies weigh between 6 and 9 pounds at birth.

> Babies who struggle with constipation may benefit from eliminating dairy from their diets, according to

> According to the National Institutes of Health, healthy women should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.

Schedule doctor visits for your child online at! Day or night, schedule appointments for next day and beyond with pediatricians Alan Brown, M.D., or Bird Gilmartin, M.D., here.

Drs. Brown and Gilmartin are members of the medical staff at Evanston Regional Hospital.