Before getting pregnant with my daughter, I had read about some new research that linked drinking too much soda before pregnancy to an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. In the article “Prospective Study of Pre-Gravid Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and the Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus” as published in the December 2009 issue of Diabetes Care, the researchers concluded that a higher consumption of sugar-sweetened cola (defined as five or more servings of cola per week) before pregnancy is associated with an elevated risk for gestational diabetes.
I love a good Cherry Coke or a marshmallow vanilla Coke every now and again, but I would definitely not classify myself as either a cola or a soda junkie. My mother, who used to drink multiple bottles of Diet Coke a day because she absolutely could not go without, used to be a cola junkie. Recently she has toned down her diet cola drinking ways, but she still drinks a lot of soda and definitely more than I can tolerate drinking. Fortunately for her and other diet cola junkies, the researchers in the above study did not find a significant association with the risk for gestational diabetes and other sugar-sweetened or diet beverages. As for me, I enjoy a soda every now and again, but I would never freak out if soda were not available to me.
However, according to the research, a woman who drinks just a few servings of regular cola each week prior to pregnancy is at a significantly increased risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. A hopeful mama-to-be who drinks five or more sugar-sweetened colas a week during the time before pregnancy has a 22% increased risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. (Again, neither diet soda nor other sugar-sweetened beverages are implicated as increased risk factors.)
At first I was a little worried about the link between soda before pregnancy and diabetes during pregnancy. To assuage my fears, I began thinking about my typical daily intake of beverages. While I was trying to conceive my daughter, I drank mostly milk (often skim but sometimes whole) as well as a lot of decaffeinated black or herbal tea. I would also occasionally have some decaffeinated coffee as well as high protein Boost (chocolate or vanilla) or some orange, cranberry, or tomato juice. I would only occasionally have a Coke and definitely not every day. Mostly I was drinking a lot of liquids with high calcium and protein contents but low caffeine and sugar counts. My risk of diabetes during pregnancy in terms of my regular cola consumption seemed pretty low.
If I had been more worried about the amount of cola that I was drinking prior to pregnancy, I did have the option of switching to diet Coke. Personally, I hate the taste of artificially sweetened drinks, so I would have rather given up soda altogether than switch to diet. But, unfortunately, although diet soda is not a risk factor for gestational diabetes, other research links drinking diet soda during pregnancy with an increased risk of premature birth. In the article “Intake of Artificially Sweetened Soft Drinks and Risk of Preterm Delivery: A Prospective Cohort Study of 59,334 Danish Pregnant Women” as published in the 2010 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers conclude that the “[d]aily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery. Consuming diet drinks, both carbonated and non-carbonated, increased the risk for premature birth. Conversely, neither sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks (regular soda) nor sugar-sweetened noncarbonated soft drinks were implicated as an increased risk for premature delivery.
Should pregnant women avoid all soda, regular and diet? First, because this second study focused solely on diet soda during pregnancy and not on sugar-sweetened soda, the increased risk of premature birth may actually be a result of the consumption of artificial sweeteners rather than simply diet soda. Nevertheless, although the results of this study are far from conclusive, which the researchers admit, there is still some indication that the high consumption of diet soda during pregnancy is non-optimal. Second, even if drinking diet soda during pregnancy were okay, drinking too much regular cola before pregnancy increases the risk for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
The message that a hopeful or expectant mother-to-be can take away from both of these studies is that soda is just not a healthy beverage choice. Having a Coke or a Diet Coke every once in a while is probably okay, but women who want to or are going to mothers would be better off avoiding soda as much as possible. Soda may not be evil but, for pregnant women, is pretty darn close.
Chen, Liwei Chen, Frank B. Hu, Edwina Yeung, Walter Willett, & Cuilin Zhang. 2009. Prospective study of pre-gravid sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care 32(12). 2236-2241. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/12/2236.short
Halldorsson, Thorhallur I., Marin Strøm, Sesilje B. Petersen, & Sjurdur F. Olsen. 2010. Intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of preterm delivery: a prospective cohort study of 59,334 Danish pregnant women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 92(3). 626-633. http://www.ajcn.org/content/early/2010/06/30/ajcn.2009.28968.abstract
Sodas and Soft Drinks: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sodas.JPG