Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners Could Reduce Fertility

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18 Oct 2016 --- New data presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress shows that artificial sweeteners and sugar found in women’s diets could negatively affect women’s chances of IVF success.

The research, conducted by investigators in Sao Paulo, Brazil, found that the consumption of both sugar and artificial sweeteners consumed by female patients via soft drinks and in coffee, have a detrimental effect on the outcomes of IVF cycles with ICSI.

The study looked at 524 patients undergoing IVF with ICSI, each who were interviewed by a professional nutritionist before beginning treatment.

They women were asked questions about the foods they consumed, including details on their intake of soft drinks and coffee sweetened with sugar and artificial sweeteners.

The results showed that consumption of soft drinks containing either sugar or artificial sweeteners affected egg quality for the worse, and diet soft drinks negatively affected embryo quality and reduced implantation and pregnancy rates.

Furthermore, patients using sugar in their coffee had poorer egg quality, however patients using artificial sweetener in their coffee had poorer egg quality, embryo quality, and reduced chances of implantation and pregnancy.

Consumption of unsweetened coffee had no effect on egg quality, implantation, or chance of pregnancy.

Professor Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society (BFS) and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), told NutritionInsight, “This is a very interesting study that suggests that the “false promise” of artificial sweeteners that are found in soft drinks and added to drinks, such as coffee, may have a significant effect on the quality and fertility potential of a woman’s eggs and this may further impact on the chance of conception."

"These findings are highly significant and relevant to our population. There should be more scrutiny of food additives and better information available to the public and, in particular, those wishing to conceive."

"The environment in which the egg develops is very sensitive to external influences and we shouldn’t underestimate the potential effects of food additives to reproductive health. Couples (both women and men) wishing to conceive should be aware of the importance of healthy nutrition.”

This study is not the first to look at how diet and nutrition can affect women hoping to conceive. Researchers in Boston recently looked at how women consuming high-pesticide fruit and vegetables were more likely to suffer a pregnancy loss.

Their results showed that during the study, 46% of lost pregnancies belonged to the study group that consumed the highest pesticide containing fruit and vegetables, compared to a 14% loss rate in the lowest pesticide consuming group.

“A state of good health including a healthy diet is essential to IVF success,” noted Owen K. Davis, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

“We need to educate our patients on pesticides and sweeteners,” he added.

“Cutting out diet soda, sweeteners, and sugar and learning about USDA’s pesticide classifications to be able to shop smarter may take some effort, but patients need to know they can improve their chances of pregnancy if they take these steps.”

However, the industry has opposed the claims made in the study. The international Sweeteners Association released a statement disputing these claims, stating: “It (the study) cannot provide evidence that low-calorie sweeteners cause any fertility problems in women and does not prove causation due to its observational nature"

"Conducted by a Fertility Medical Group in Sao Paolo, this research has not been published in a scientific journal and has not undergone any peer review process by experts, therefore we can only comment based on the abstract published in the congress proceedings.”

“In fact, the alarming headlines used in the media in advance of its presentation at this congress or publication in a peer-reviewed journal does raise serious questions and concerns about the source of information.”

“Furthermore, the methodology used in this study, as described poorly in the abstract, seems to have a number of important limitations. Importantly, the study has not taken into account a number of confounding factors such as the quality of the overall diet, the high possibility that women who were using low calorie sweeteners were also obese or had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOs) or other factors affecting fertility rates.”

“Low calorie sweeteners can be a safe and helpful tool for women to follow a healthy, balanced and calorie-controlled diet. There is also strong evidence supporting that substituting low calorie sweeteners for sugar in foods and beverages can help people, including women in reproductive age, reduce their calorie intake and manage more effectively their body weight.”

by Hannah Gardiner

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