New research shows that women who regularly consume sodas may be lowering their chances of getting pregnant.
For the study, researchers interviewed 524 women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment about their food and beverage consumption. They found a link between low-calorie sweeteners, such as saccharin and sucrose, and reduced fertility rates.
The study was presented on 17 October 2016 at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine congress in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Diet sodas are considered by many women to be “healthier” than sugary ones, but the findings indicate that both natural and synthetic sweeteners raised the risk of an embryo having at least one deformity. The authors wrote:
“The general population believes that artificial sweeteners are healthier than regular sugar, and is not aware of the dangers hidden behind the promise of reduced calorie food and beverages.”
A leading British fertility expert called the findings “highly significant” and cautioned women not to underestimate the effects of food additives on their chances of conception. 
Let’s take a look at some of the study’s other findings:
- Reduced rates of pregnancy were most closely linked with the consumption of soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners, in addition to coffee with added artificial sweeteners.
- Sugary soft drinks and coffee were associated with poorer egg quality and poorer pregnancy chances.
- Unsweetened coffee did not affect egg quality or the odds of becoming pregnant.
Said Professor Adam Balen, Chairman of the British Fertility Society:
“This is a very interesting study that suggests 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 of woman’s eggs and this may further impact on the chances of conception.
These findings are highly significant 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.”
Some experts have been slow to accept the findings, however, because they say obesity could have been a factor in the findings, noting the study’s lack of body-weight information, as well as the use of data from IVF patients.
Furthermore, a spokesman from the British Dietetic Association said the study made no attempt to distinguish the impact on fertility outcomes of the body-weight of the women in the study from the impact of artificial sweeteners and sugar in their diets.
Professor Richard Sharpe, Group Leader of Male Reproductive Health Research Team, University of Edinburgh, noted that some of the women the researchers studied may have been drinking diet soda in an effort to lose weight.
Unfortunately for these women, diet soda has been linked to weight gain. As a matter of fact, a study published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks was associated with “escalating abdominal obesity.”
Over the course of the 9-year study, regular drinkers of diet soda added more than 3 inches around their middle, compared with those who didn’t drink diet soda. And the occasional diet soda drinkers increased approximately 1.8 inches around their midsections.
There is debate over whether diet soda literally causes this weight gain, or whether people who drink diet soda wind up consuming too many calories because they believe drinking diet soda means they can eat more.
Past studies have shown that excess weight can interfere with a woman’s estrogen levels and cause polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant.
However, it’s important to note that past studies have also shown that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the gut’s delicate microbiome, which can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions that include high blood pressure and high blood glucose (sugar) levels that overall increase the risk of heart disease.
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