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Aspartame and Infertility
The Coca-Cola company is running new ads defending the use of the artificial sweetener aspartame, which they say, “allows us to give people great-tasting options they can feel good about." But can you feel good about aspartame, particularly when you’re trying to conceive?
The FDA-approved, low-calorie sweetener is an ingredient in more than 6,000 products - including foods, beverages and the sweeteners Equal and NutraSweet. While it doesn’t contribute to cavities, has no calories, and may be a good sugar alternative for diabetics, there are concerns about the safety of the ingredient.
According to Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN, Director of Nutritional Counseling at Boston IVF, "While there isn't research tying artificial sweeteners to infertility, at a time when so much is riding on providing the healthiest environment for a child to be conceived in and nurtured, it doesn't hurt to be cautious. With very few exceptions, foods and beverages that are artificially sweetened make no positive nutritional contributions to the diet, sometimes nudging out foods that could do your body good (for example, hydrating mostly with diet soda instead of milk or water). Because they're so much sweeter than regular sugar, research suggests that may also increase our taste for hyper-sweet foods." But Wright says that because they are deemed safe for pregnancy based on existing research, "If a woman feels like she needs to use a little sweetener, small amounts should be safe. My advice is to limit it to a serving or so per day in case opinions on safety for pregnant women change over time."
Kathryn Flynn, nutritional consultant and author, however, has greater concerns. “In a study by Dr. Madelon Price, aspartame consumption was shown to create infertility in rodents. She specifically noted that aspartame disrupts the release of prolactin, luteinizing hormone and growth hormone, all of which govern sexual function. Aspartame at both low and high doses impact the pituitary gland, resulting in abnormal releases of hormones and ultimately disrupting the neurons responsible for transmission.” This study has not been replicated in humans.
Like Wright, Flynn, who is the author of Cooking for Fertility advises women who are trying to conceive to avoid or limit beverages and foods that contain aspartame and high fructose corn syrup. Instead, Wright says, “Try sparkling water with a splash of juice as a soda alternative or kombucha tea, with its many healing benefits.”