Aspartame During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

by on June 9, 2012

Diet and nutrition during pregnancy entails a lot of concerns. One of which is the use of artificial sweeteners such Aspartame during pregnancy. Many women who want to cut their calorie intake from regular table sugar often use sugar substitutes which are thought to help cut calorie in the diet. Aspartame (trade names: Equal and NutraSweet) is one of the most widely known and commonly used artificial sweeteners today. But is it safe to take aspartame during pregnancy?

This section provides information about the safety of aspartame during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As with most things concerning your pregnancy, it is recommended that you consult your healthcare provider for specific instructions regarding your diet.

Is Aspartame Safe During Pregnancy?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers aspartame as safe for use during pregnancy. In July of 1993, the American Dietetic Association has published a report on sweeteners which confirms the safety of aspartame for pregnant women.

Furthermore, studies have shown that exposure to aspartame during pregnancy is not likely to cause harm on the unborn child. In fact, most pregnant women unknowingly consume aspartame in their daily diet. There are a lot of foods and beverages that have high levels of aspartame. In most cases, the use of this artificial sweetener can help satisfy the woman’s “sweet tooth” while reducing calorie intake, consequently allowing intake of more nutritive foods. Studies further show that the body uses up aspartame much like regular table sugar. As such, using a packet or two of aspartame preparations or a can of soft drinks every now and then is not expected to cause problems.

Although the FDA does not put any specific restrictions or limitations to pregnant women, consuming more than the Advised Daily Intake for aspartame (50 mg/kg/day) may cause some harm hence should be avoided. However, pregnant women with phenylketonuria (a rare genetic disorder that results in failure to metabolize amino acids) should steer clear of all food products that contain aspartame. Similarly, people who are sensitive to aspartame may consider avoiding it altogether.

Is Aspartame Safe For Breastfeeding Women?

Studies suggest that aspartame is not passed through the breast milk. It is rapidly metabolized in the mother’s body hence is not found in the milk. However, consuming very high doses of aspartame (more than 17 cans of soft drinks or 100 packets of Equal Sweetener) can cause a slight increase in the phenylalanine concentration of the breast milk. The amount of phenylalanine in the breast milk returns to normal after 12 hours of consuming a single, large dose of aspartame. Although women breast-feeding a child with phenylketnonuria are advised to avoid taking food products with aspartame, amounts that are usually ingested do not likely increase the risk to the breastfed child. Again, breastfeeding women with phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame completely to prevent problems.