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Can I drink or eat sugar free foods during pregnancy?

Q: Can I drink or eat sugar free foods during pregnancy?

A:Artificial sweeteners are ingredients that add sweetness to foods. Sweeteners are ingredients in soft drinks, desserts, candies and pastries. There are two categories of sweeteners: nutritive (contain calories) and non-nutritive (without calories). Nutritive sweeteners (such as table sugar) contain what is called “empty” calories. These additives contribute calories to the diet, but they contain few vitamins or minerals. When used in moderation, nutritive sweeteners are considered safe for consumption during pregnancy assuming they are not contributing to excess weight gain. However, women with carbohydrate intolerance such as gestational diabetes, diabetes mellitus, or insulin resistance need to limit their use of nutritive sweeteners. Nutritive sweeteners include sugars such as sucrose, dextrose, honey, corn sugar, fructose, and maltose. Sugar alcohols are also nutritive sweeteners that are often found in foods labelled as “sugar free.” Technically, sugar alcohols are not sugars, but they do have calories, which can be converted into fat. Examples of sugar alcohols include: Sorbitol, Xylitol, Isomalt, Mannitol and hydrogenated starch. Non-nutritive sweeteners are added in very small amounts to foods for a significant sweetening effect and have been approved for use in dietetic or reduced calorie foods and beverages. The following are non-nutritive sweeteners that are considered safe during pregnancy: Acesulfame Potassium: (Sunett) This sweetener is added to baked goods, frozen desserts, sugar free gelatins, puddings and beverages. Acesulfame Potassium has been deemed safe to use in moderation during pregnancy by the FDA. Aspartame: (Equal or NutraSweet) Aspartame is not effective in heat or for long periods in liquid form. It is often found as an additive to soft drinks, gelatin, desserts, pudding mixes, breakfast cereals, beverages, chewing gum, dairy products, and other foods and drugs. According to the Food and Drug Administration, Aspartame is safe for use during pregnancy and lactation. It is recommended to limit consumption to a moderate level. Aspartame should not be used by anyone with PKU (a rare metabolic disorder), rare liver disease, or by pregnant women who have high levels of phenylalanine in their blood. Phenylalanine is a component of aspartame, and it may not metabolise correctly in anyone who has these conditions. Sucralose: (Splenda) This is non-caloric sweetener that is made from sugar. Sucralose has been approved for use in baked goods, baking mixes, non-alcoholic beverages, chewing gum, coffee and tea products, confections and frostings, fats and oils, frozen dairy desserts and mixes, fruit juices, sugar substitutes, sweet sauces, toppings and syrups. It can also be used as “table-top sweetener.” Sucralose has no effect on blood sugar, offers no calories, and is deemed safe during pregnancy and lactation. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sucralose is safe for everyone to consume, including pregnant women. Avoid the use of the following: Cyclamate: Cyclamate is not considered safe for anyone including pregnant women. Saccharin: (Sweet N Low) Although it is not used as much today as in the past, it still appears in many foods, beverages and other substances. Saccharin crosses the placenta and may be a risk for pregnant women. High saccharin exposure in utero and throughout life have been linked to increased risk of developing bladder cancer. Stevia: This sweetener is derived from a shrub. It can add sweetness to foods, but has been banned by the FDA to be sold as a sweetener. Stevia can be sold as a “dietary supplement” but not as a sweetener because its safety has been questioned when used as a food additive. The safety of Stevia is unknown when used as a sweetener by pregnant or lactating women If you use artificial sweeteners and are pregnant, it is always best to talk with your doctor on which sweetener you are using and how much you are consuming. Preferably during pregnancy avoid any form of artificial food.

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