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Sweetened drinks increase risk of preterm birth

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
preterm birth, sugar-sweetened beverages, artificilally-sweetened beverages

Sugary drinks have been linked to a risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Artificially sweetened beverages have also been reported to be unhealthy. A new study has linked both sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverages to another major health hazard: preterm birth. European researchers published the results of their study in the August Edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The authors noted that both artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages are commonly consumed by pregnant women. They added that a recent Danish study reported that the daily intake of an artificially-sweetened beverage was associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery. The new study was designed to examine the intake of both artificially-sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages in a similar manner as the Danish; the objective was to observe whether artificially-sweetened beverages were indeed associated with preterm delivery.

The study group was comprised of 60,761 pregnant women in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The consumption of carbonated and noncarbonated beverages (both sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened) as well as the use of artificial sweeteners in hot drinks were evaluated via a self-reported food-frequency questionnaire in mid-pregnancy. Preterm delivery was the primary outcome measure; data in this regard were obtained from the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry.

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The investigators found that consumption of both artificially-sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages increased with increasing body mass index (BMI) and energy intake; furthermore, consumption was higher in women with less education, in daily smokers, and in single women. Women who drank more than one sugar sweetened drink in a day increased their risk of delivering early by 25%, compared to those who never drank sugary drinks. Women who drank artificially sweetened beverages on a daily basis were 11% more likely to give birth prematurely than those who never drank them. Body weight was found to be a risk factor for preterm birth. The strongest association between preterm birth and sugary drinks was found among overweight women. Overweight women who drank at least one sugary drink a week were 30% more likely to deliver preterm than overweight women who never did. The risk increased by 41% if they consumed the beverages on a daily basis.

The authors concluded that their study suggested that a high intake of both artificially-sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery.

Take home message:
Factors other than consumption of sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverages are involved in the risk of preterm birth. For example, smoking definitely increases the risk. Although it is impossible to sort out all the possible risk factors related to lifestyle choices, consumption of these beverages likely increases the risk of preterm birth. Even a small increased risk (i.e., 1%) is 100% if it happens to you. It is possible to live one’s life without consuming either sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened beverages. A cold glass of zero-calorie water can quench one’s thirst. Fruits and natural fruit beverages contain complex carbohydrates that are metabolized more slowly than sugar; thus, avoiding a temporary “sugar high” followed by a slump that prompts one to reach for another can of soda.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

See also:
Are you at risk for a preterm birth?
US preterm birth rate worst among developed nations
Preterm birth reported to increase risk of psychiatric disorders