MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Meghan Azad PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics & Child Health and Community Health Sciences
University of Manitoba
Associate Investigator, Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Azad: It is well known that maternal nutrition plays a key role in “programming” fetal development and infant weight gain, but the impact of artificial sweetener consumption during this critical period has not been extensively studied. Some animal research suggests that consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy can predispose offspring to develop obesity, but this has never been studied in humans, until now.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Dr. Azad: In this study of 3033 mother-infant pairs, maternal consumption of artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy was significantly associated with infant body mass index at 1 year of age. After controlling for maternal obesity, diet quality, and other known obesity risk factors, daily consumption of artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy was associated with a 2-fold higher risk of becoming overweight among infants.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Dr. Azad: Our study provides the first human evidence that maternal consumption of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy may contribute to the development of childhood obesity.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Azad: Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity and widespread use of artificial sweeteners, further research is warranted to confirm our findings and investigate the underlying biological mechanisms, with the ultimate goal of informing evidence-based dietary recommendations for pregnant women.
We are continuing to follow the children in our study to assess the long-term health effects of prenatal exposure to artificial sweeteners. At the same time, we are conducting a study in mice to better understand how consumption of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy affects offspring development and health. We will be exploring potential mechanisms involving the glucose metabolism and the gut microbiome.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Azad: This research is part of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study (www.canadianchildstudy.ca) – a national birth cohort study collecting a wide range of health, lifestyle and environmental exposure information from more than 3,500 mothers and children from pregnancy to age five. Launched in 2008 by CIHR and AllerGen NCE, the CHILD Study is tracking thousands of Canadian families and their infants over early childhood to help determine the root causes of chronic diseases, such as asthma, allergies and obesity, among other conditions.
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