Diet Drinks Linked to Higher Infertility Rates among Women

Diet Coke with Ice

A recent study found women who routinely consume diet drinks packed with artificial sweeteners dramatically reduce their odds of getting pregnant. Researchers at the Federal University of Sao Paulo explained sugar substitutes such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are all tied to higher infertility rates in women.

Additionally, the study, which included more than 500 participants, found sugar in sodas and coffee may lead to lower-quality eggs and embryos. Fertility experts in the U.K. described the latest findings as “highly significant.”

The recent research confirms once more that food additives can have a negative impact on people’s ability to conceive.

Critics of the study, on the other hand, said obesity or other factors may have caused low fertility rates among study participants. Past studies have found an association between obesity and lower odds of conceiving in both sexes.

People usually opt for artificial sweeteners because they are low-calorie and prevent them from gaining weight.

The Study

In the latest study, most of participants were undergoing IVF treatment as a last resort to fix their infertility issues. Study investigators asked these participants to answer questions about their dietary habits.

Nearly all these women acknowledged they consumed artificial sweeteners either in soft drinks or in their coffee. But the team found high consumption of soft drinks is detrimental even when they don’t contain sugar substitutes.

Women who consumed drinks with high sugar content produced low-quality eggs, a factor which also lowers the chances of conceiving. But women who drank their coffee unsweetened had no such problems.

Professor Adam Balen, a U.K. fertility expert, commented on the findings. Balen noted the study proved the “promises” artificial sweeteners deliver are false. Plus, added sugar in coffee and other drinks seems just as bad for women’s ability to conceive.

“These findings are highly significant to our population,”

the expert concluded.

Balen called for more research on food additives and better information for the women who try to conceive.

But experts at the British Dietetic Association dismissed the findings. BFA experts noted the latest research did not take into account the bodyweight of women trying to get pregnant. Being overweight may play a larger part in infertility issues than artificial sweeteners, the group said.

Other experts recommend taking the findings with a pinch of salt. They believe a study mainly based on IVF patient’s experience might have some serious limitations.

Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer Risk

Nevertheless, despite experts’ mixed feelings about the recent study, a plethora of other studies found associations between artificial sweeteners and health problems. For example, sugar substitutes may cause cancer in the long run.

In the 1970s, experiments on laboratory animals revealed saccharin can lead to bladder cancer. Follow-up studies confirmed the link. In the mid-1990s, aspartame also known as NutraSweet or Equal sparked concerns that it may cause brain cancer. Even though, subsequent research did not find a clear link between the sweetener and the disease, a 2005 study found high rates of  lymphoma and leukemia in laboratory animals fed with high amounts of aspartame.
Image Source: Flickr