Autism and Pregnancy: Is There a Connection to Diet Soda Consumption?
Drinking diet sodas and consuming aspartame-sweetened beverages daily during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of autism in male offspring, according to a study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio).
The Research Findings:
The study found that boys who were diagnosed with autism were over three times more likely to have mothers who reported consuming one or more servings per day of diet soda or comparable amounts of aspartame during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, no significant association was found in female offspring.
Potential Health Impacts:
While these findings do not prove causality, they align with previous studies that have shown increased prematurity and cardiometabolic health impacts on infants and children exposed to diet beverages and aspartame during pregnancy. The study highlights the need for further investigation into the potential neurological impacts of these products.
Published Study Details:
The study, titled “Daily Early-Life Exposures to Diet Soda and Aspartame Are Associated with Autism in Males: A Case-Control Study,” was published in Nutrients, an international journal of human nutrition. The researchers collected dietary recalls from mothers of 235 offspring with autism spectrum disorder and 121 offspring with typical neurological development. The recalls included estimates of diet beverage and aspartame consumption during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The odds of exposure were calculated for all offspring with autism and for those with non-regressive autism. Males diagnosed with autism disorder had more than tripled odds of being exposed daily to these products during pregnancy or breastfeeding compared to male controls. These odds were particularly high among males with non-regressive autism.
The researchers call for larger studies and prospective measurements of dietary exposures and additional risk factors to further assess these associations and determine if they extend to all offspring with autism spectrum disorder.
In the meantime, caution should be exercised by women considering the use of these products during pregnancy and breastfeeding until further assessments are available. The researchers emphasize that this modifiable potential risk factor should be eliminated to protect susceptible offspring in future generations.