An expectant mother’s use of low-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia, in pregnancy has been well studied both in humans and in animals. Before approving the currently available low-calorie sweeteners, regulatory bodies worldwide determined that low-calorie sweeteners are safe for all populations, including special groups such as the elderly, children, and pregnant and nursing women. (1-5) Further, leading health groups such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Diabetes Association support the safe use of low-calorie sweeteners during pregnancy.
Low-calorie sweeteners can help pregnant women enjoy the taste of sweets without excess calories, leaving room for nutritious foods and beverages without excess weight gain. Excess weight gain during pregnancy has been shown to be harmful to both the mother and developing baby.
Today’s most popular sweeteners are safe when consumed within the ADI by the general population including special populations such as the elderly, children, and pregnant and nursing women.
The ADI (6) is a conservative estimate of acceptable dietary intake over an entire lifetime and is inclusive of all age groups and special populations, including children and pregnant women.
Multi-generational studies have found no adverse effects on the mother or developing baby related to the use of low-calorie sweeteners.
During pregnancy, sometimes the hormones produced inhibit the activity of mother’s insulin leading to what is referred to as, “insulin resistance”. Other times, the mother may not be able to produce and use enough insulin needed during pregnancy. Both of these conditions are called “gestational diabetes”. (7)
Women with gestation diabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes at any time after pregnancy, especially in cases of a poor diet or excessive weigh gain. Pregnant women who have diabetes, those who need to control calorie intake, or those who simply enjoy sweet taste may safely use low-calorie sweeteners. (8)
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: (9) In pregnant women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), who choose to consume high-intensity sweeteners, the registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) should educate the woman to select only those approved or generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and to limit her intake to the acceptable daily intake (ADI), established by the FDA.
For More Information
Calorie Control Council: – Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy
American Pregnancy Association – Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy
Society for Birth Defects Research & Prevention – Birth Defects Insights: Sweet or Sour? Artificial Sweetener Safety during Pregnancy
(1) – U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
(2) – JECFA. 37th JECFA Report, WHO Food Additives Series, No. 28, Toxicological Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants: Trichlorogalactosucrose. WHO Food Addit Ser. 1991;(28):219–228.
(3) – 8B972EBA020A1236BB8?sequence=1.World Health Organization. 41st report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. 1993:64.
(4) – World Health Organization. 21st Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expoert Committee on Food Additives. 1978.
(5) – World Health Organization. 82nd report of the FAO/WHO Expoert Committee on Food Additives. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 2017;(1000):1-162. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2005.01.003
(6) – JECFA established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level based on review of the science.
(7) – American Diabetes Association. Gestational Diabetes and a Healthy Baby? Yes. Accessed August 19, 2020.
(8) – International Food Information Council. Gestational Diabetes and Low-Calorie Sweeteners: Answers to Common Questions.
(9) – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. GESTATIONAL DIABETES (GDM) GUIDELINE (2016). 2016 Gestational Diabetes Evidence-Based Nutrition Practice Guideline