There are many artificial sweeteners used in today’s products.  Some of them may be more harmful than others to a pregnant woman and her baby.  Some of the most common sweeteners used are Aspartame, Saccharin, Acesulfame K and Sucralose.  You should be aware of the concerns involved in each.

NutraSweet, the brand name of aspartame, is a non-caloric sweetener used in diet sodas and many other foods. It is made up of two amino acids.  One of the proteins that make up part of aspartame is phenylalanine.  Phenylketonuria (also called PKU) is a rare hereditary condition in which this particular protein is not metabolized. If you have a family history of PKU, you might consider getting tested.  If you take in too much phenylalanine while you are pregnant, there is a risk because the high levels of phenylalanine can cause damage to the fetus.  In a healthy person fed sixty 12-oz cans of diet soda at one time, blood phenylalanine levels peak well below the sustained concentration level deemed harmful.  Unless you suffer from PKU, phenylalanine does not seem to pose any threat.

Saccharin is another sweetener found in some soft drinks.  It has been found to have teratogenic (causing abnormal fetal development and birth defects) effects in rats. It has also been shown to cause cancer in rats as well.  Human studies have not found these effects.  However, it is probably best to err on the side of caution when it comes to Saccharin.

Acesulfame K, sometimes called Acesulfame Potassium or Sunette is a sweetener often used to keep food products fresher longer.  Most studies on this sweetener show no detrimental effects.  This is primarily because the body does not break it down.  Acesulfame K passes out of the body in the same form it enters.

Sucralose or Splenda is made from sugar and is a non-caloric sweetener.  Sucralose is a very new sweetener, but thus far no detrimental effects have been shown from Splenda use.  Like Acesulfame K, the body does not metabolize Splenda.

Are artificial sweeteners safe during pregnancy?