From AOL Health:
Denmark scientists say pregnant women should drop the daily diet soda habit for fear it could cause premature births.
The soda-drinking patterns of almost 60,000 Danish women were followed by researchers for a period of six years, and results suggest a link between diet carbonated and noncarbonated drinks and premature births, HealthDay reported.
In the study, which appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers found that 4.6 percent of study participants delivered babies early and one-third of those premature births were medically induced.
Researchers categorized the women in accordance of how much soda they drank, labeling them as those who never drank soda, drank less than one serving per week, one to six per week, one a day, two to three a day, or four or more a day.
Though no link was found between premature birth and the consumption of soda naturally sweetened with sugar, the results did find that compared to those who never drank the beverages, women who guzzled four or more artificially sweetened diets drinks daily were 78 percent more likely to deliver early.
One or more drinks a day was associated with a 38 percent increased risk of premature delivery.
The study was unable to explain why diet drinks specifically were shown to have this effect on premature birth, but previous studies have suggested the link could be involved with high blood pressure and the fact that some diet sodas are high in sodium.
Dr. Sharon Mass, a gynecologist from the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, told AOL Health that the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but it is an interesting link and worth fully examining.
She adds that the common artificial sweeteners aspartame (NutraSweet) and Splenda are thought to be safe during pregnancy, but saccharin (another low-cal sweetener found in Sweet'N Low) in high doses was shown to cause cancer in rats and should be avoided by pregnant women. The key to pregnancy health for both the mother and fetus is moderation, she said.
"We usually tell our patients that diet soft drinks, in moderation, are safe," Mass told AOL Health. "It never hurts to do things in moderation, and four or more diet soft drinks daily is a lot of soda to consume. Other beverages, like water, may be a better choice for hydration in pregnancy."
Premature birth is associated with health risks to the newborn such as respiratory problems; issues with feeding, vision and hearing; and, in extreme cases, cerebral palsy and death, Mass said.
Dr. Alan R. Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes, told HealthDay that until additional necessary research is performed, expectant mothers should limit their intake of diet soda and consult their doctors about their risk of premature delivery.