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Low calorie sweeteners and safety during pregnancy

 Safety

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded the safety of six high-intensity sweeteners [saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, neotame and advantame] when consumed within the ADI by the general population, including pregnant women. Steviol glycosides and Luo Han Guo (monk fruit) extracts are also recognized as safe when consumed within the ADI.
  • These low-calorie sweeteners used in foods and beverages are determined by regulatory bodies, including the Joint WHO/FAO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) to be safe for all populations, including special populations such as the elderly, children, and pregnant and nursing women. These safety assessments include an evaluation of possible effects of low-calorie sweeteners during pregnancy and have continued to show that these sweeteners are safe for pregnant women and their children.
  • For all currently available sweeteners, JECFA has evaluated their safety and has established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level based on review of the science. The ADI is a conservative estimate of acceptable dietary intake over an entire lifetime and is inclusive of all age groups and sensitive sub-populations, including children and pregnant women.
  • Multi-generational studies have found no adverse effects on the mother or developing baby related to the use of low-calorie sweeteners.

Gestational Diabetes

  • During pregnancy, sometimes the hormones produced inhibit the activity of mother’s insulin leading to what is referred to as, “insulin resistance”. Other times, the mother may not be able to produce and use enough insulin needed during pregnancy. Both of these conditions are called “gestational diabetes”.
  • Women with gestation diabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes at any time after pregnancy, especially in cases of a poor diet or excessive weigh gain. Pregnant women who have diabetes, those who need to control calorie intake, or those who simply enjoy sweet taste may safely use low-calorie sweeteners.
  • According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2018 Gestational Diabetes Evidence-Based Nutrition Practice Guideline: In pregnant women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), who choose to consume high-intensity sweeteners, the registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) should educate the woman to select only those approved or generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and to limit her intake to the acceptable daily intake (ADI), established by the FDA.

Download factsheet for information about pregnancy and LCNS

In Summary

  • Low-calorie sweeteners can help pregnant women enjoy the taste of sweets without excess calories, leaving room for nutritious foods and beverages without excess weight gain. Excess weight gain during pregnancy has been shown to be harmful to both the mother and developing baby.

Helpful Links

References

1. JECFA. 37th JECFA Report, WHO Food Additives Series, No. 28, Toxicological Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants: Trichlorogalactosucrose. WHO Food Addit Ser. 1991;(28):219–228. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/40288/WHO_TRS_806.pdf;jsessionid=E77231B5951408B972EBA020A1236BB8?sequence=1.

2. World Health Organization. 41st report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. 1993:64.

3. World Health Organization. 21st Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expoert Committee on Food Additives. 1978.

4. World Health Organization. 82nd report of the FAO/WHO Expoert Committee on Food Additives. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 2017;(1000):1-162. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2005.01.003

5. American Diabetes Association. Gestational Diabetes and a Healthy Baby? Yes. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/gestational-diabetes. Accessed August 19, 2020.

6. International Food Information Council. Gestational Diabetes and Low-Calorie Sweeteners: Answers to Common Questions. https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/gestationaldiabetes.pdf.

7. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. GESTATIONAL DIABETES (GDM) GUIDELINE (2016).