Is the sweetness gone?
December 31, 2007 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I am in my third trimester of pregnancy - from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I cut out artificial sweeteners (in addition to other things) from my diet.

I replaced my usual diet sodas, drinks and nutrasweetened-foods with naturally-sweetened beverages, and having small amounts of sugar, agave syrup, or honey in or on foods. It wasn't too excessive.

Now I've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I have 'backslid' into having a few packets of splenda in my daily tea, and having a few bottles of splenda-sweetened fizzy water. But I think I should cut back, or try to cut these things out again.

Is there any sweetener that is safe for both a diabetic *and* a pregnant woman to consume? I'm afraid the answer is no, but as a woman with more than two months of pregnancy to go, and whose every tooth is has been hard and depressing to have to modify my diet so much at this stage. I know it is for both my health and the health of my unborn child, but it is quite challenging to not have *anything* sweet, at all.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know for sure if it's safe for diabetics and/or pregnancy, but make sure you look into stevia, if you haven't already. I know people who swear by it. The wikipedia article I linked to says it's favored by diabetics, but says nothing about pregnant women, unfortunately, so you might have to do a little more digging (or ask your doc?) to get a conclusive answer.
posted by cgg at 7:40 AM on December 31, 2007

My experience with 2 pregnancies is that when you have cravings, it's a sign your body isn't getting something that it needs. When I crave sweets, it's usually because I am tired and my body wants to use the sugar to pep myself up. And I was a salt-craving monster during my first pregnancy when I wasn't taking my prenatal vitamin regularly.

It might be worth looking at what could be missing that your body is trying to make up for with sugar: sleep, exercise, vitamins, natural sunlight, the essential fatty acids found in fish oil... you get the picture. If you find an underlying cause, the sweet tooth might go away.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:44 AM on December 31, 2007

If you must have sweet tastes could you substitute a piece of fruit for a procecessed beverage?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:46 AM on December 31, 2007

Could you trade off some of the starches for sugar? White flour is about as bad as sugar in terms of blood sugar.
posted by electroboy at 7:46 AM on December 31, 2007

Also, could I say sugar a few more times? Sugar.
posted by electroboy at 7:47 AM on December 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

Every reasonable study I have ever read, and every non-batshitinsane online resource I can find (google "Splenda pregnancy"), indicates that Splenda (sucralose) is entirely safe during pregnancy and nursing. Natural foods and sweeteners are great and it sounds like you are being very conscientious in you efforts to use them, which is commendable, but gestational diabetes is a fact of life and that is one very good reason why these sweeteners exist. When my wife was pregnant, we quizzed our OB/GYN about this very question and she told us that Splenda (in reasonable quantities) is fine. She (the OB/GYN) prides herself on being up to date on the latest science and told us that there is simply nothing to fear from that particular sweetener (used in reasonable quantities of course). My two absolutely perfect children are, of course, proof she was right. You have plenty to worry about without worrying about this.

Congratulations and enjoy the sweetness of your pregnancy.
posted by The Bellman at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might want to read this previous question about the relative safety of different types of artificial sweeteners.

Formal scientific studies seem to point to Sucralose (Splenda) and Aspartame (NutraSweet) being safe without any known negative health effects.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:51 AM on December 31, 2007

If I was concerned that artificial sweeteners were unsafe for some reason, I would certainly not use the most recently invented one with the shortest sales history. Even if they do say it's made from sugar, as if it that makes it safer.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on December 31, 2007

In the "Hey You're Pregnant!" folder that my doctor's office gave me three months ago, there's a pamphlet about foods to avoid and it very specifically says not to be worried about artificial sweeteners. No studies have shown a risk to pregnant women or their babies. I'd be more concerned about the effect of al that carbonated beverage on your calcium levels.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:57 AM on December 31, 2007

If you have Gestational DM, you should ask your doctor to be referred to a nutritionist or dietician. They can help you manage your blood sugars, and provide good, professional advice on what foods are good and safe to eat.

All of your baby's parts are done being created. At this point they're growing. The really critical periods for most birth defects and teratogens are in the first trimester. From my limited knowledge of obstetrics, I'd hazard an educated guess that your risks of having high blood sugars (and the risks to you and your baby) are higher than those due to using artificial sweeteners.

Please please PLEASE watch your sugars, record them, and take your insulin. Ask questions if you're scared. Risks are much lower when your sugars are well-controlled, but skyrocket if they're not.

(I am not a doctor, I am not your doctor, you are not my patient. Please see your doctor or go to L&D if you're concerned.)
posted by gramcracker at 8:21 AM on December 31, 2007

My advice isn't specifically related to pregnancy but I've been cutting excess sugar from my diet for a while. Since I also avoid artificial sweeteners, having a sweet tooth doesn't make it easy. I've found that when I'm really craving something sweet, I can fool myself with very dark chocolate (Lindt 85%, is an excellent and relatively cheap option). It's got little sugar, lots of antioxidants and leaves me satisfied. Could work for you.
posted by kepano at 8:47 AM on December 31, 2007

I can fool myself with very dark chocolate (Lindt 85%, is an excellent and relatively cheap option)

Chocolate contains caffeine, theobromine, and other methylxanthine alkaloids. Your fetus's sensitivity to their effects will vary according to the genetics of you and it. Higher levels of caffeine appear to correlate with increased probability of miscarriage, although there are confounding behavioural and environmental factors in addition to the genetic components.
posted by meehawl at 9:28 AM on December 31, 2007

Jesus, meehawl, those are some scary sounding chemical names there, huh? The "higher levels" of caffeine in the study you cited were over 300 mg/day - that's like 3-6 double espressos or 15 ounces of dark chocolate. The idea that modest amounts of dark chocolate could have any negative impact on pregnancy is utter bullshit.
posted by nanojath at 9:41 AM on December 31, 2007 [8 favorites]

I had gestational diabetes, and both my gynecologist and the diabetes nutritionist I was sent to advised me that it was safe to use artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. I used both Splenda and aspartame throughout the pregnancy and had a healthy 7lb 8oz boy at 41 weeks.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:00 AM on December 31, 2007

I had gestational diabetes while I was pregnant as well. The nutritionist told me that to combine anything sweet (like juice) with a protein. The protein helps slow the absorption of the sweet stuff into your blood stream and keeps your blood sugar from spiking.

I could never have something that was absolutely pure sugar (like syrup on waffles) but I could have the occasional cookie if I followed it up with a couple of cheese cubes, for example. I monitored my blood sugar obssessively and never had any problems.

If you do use artificial sweetners, I would stick to Splenda and Stevia and avoid Aspartame.
posted by Ostara at 10:19 AM on December 31, 2007

The nutritionist where I work and I had a conversation about artificial sweeteners in general that might apply here. Her take on it was that artificial sweeteners lead to craving more sweet things, and so she avoids recommending them to her clients. In fact, she discourages their use at all, which I believe is non-standard. The discussion was in the context of prevention of childhood obesity and type II diabetes in children/adolescents, fwiw.

I can see where the OP might be avoiding artificial sweeteners despite presumably having been told they're safe in moderation. (I'd hazard a strong guess that her doctor would be remiss if they hadn't referred her to a dietitian/nutritionist about this.) If you eat the sweeteners, it might make you want more, and so on, until maybe there's more concern about the absolute levels of sweetener consumption being high?

Another answer would just be to tough it out. Drink bubbly water, not sweetened. Do some breathing exercises, take your mind off of the cravings. Distract yourself. Every time you want something sweet, snap a rubber band on your wrist. Do what they tell smokers to do when quitting!
posted by Stewriffic at 10:54 AM on December 31, 2007

you may have noticed this, but i have found the fewer sweets i eat, the more my sweet tooth decreases. so, that after a few days of no sweetness, i don't really want it anymore. but, that's NO sweetness at all...which is tricky (not even a sugar sub).

also, you didn't mention anything about post-pregnancy and you probably already know this...but gestational diabetes increases your chances of developing diabetes later in life. this happened to someone i know, it took about 10 years.
posted by hazel at 11:07 AM on December 31, 2007

those are some scary sounding chemical names there

I'm sorry that the use of chemical vocabulary frightens you. As regards your "ounces" calculation wrt caffeine, "dark" chocolates vary according to preparation and cocoa content. Commercial cocoas contained, on the average, 1.89% theobromine and 0.21% caffeine. The total ± SD. for natural cocoas was 2.82 + 0.16% with a 90% confidence interval of 2.56–3.08%. Even excluding the wide SDs, considering a range between a "dark" of 45% cocoa content and a "dark" of 70%, you could frequently find theobromine/caffeine quantity per 100 g of (518 mg, 50 mg) to (805 mg, 75 mg). These are very rough figures.

Like caffeine, theobromine is rapidly metabolised within humans into a cAMP phosphodiesterase inhibitor. Therefore, I think any personal calculation of consumption of caffeine should also include theobromine, especially in foods where their ratios are unusually high. Not as much work has been done on theobromine and fetal development. Here's one I found:
Theobromine feeding resulted in significant inhibition of embryo growth as assessed by their weight and decreased angiogenic activity of their tissue ... We concluded that a theobromine-enriched diet affects progeny development in both prenatal and postnatal periods. Consequently, particular attention should be paid to the reduction of theobromine consumption, and most probably that of other methyloxanthines, during pregnancy and lactation.
I am not a doctor, I am not your doctor, and this is not medical advice.
posted by meehawl at 11:56 AM on December 31, 2007

I'm sorry that the use of chemical vocabulary frightens you

I've got a degree in chemistry, adjust your sarcasm meter. My point is that you are being alarmist with no real clinical evidence (your itty bitty mouse study does not change my opinion) based on google searches and figures basically pulled out of your ass.

However, I am also guilty of ass-pulling, back-of-enveloping pseudo-figures based on google searches and for that I apologize. The numbers I cited are not meaningful or useful for nutritional decision-making.

In any event, moderation in all things, follow the advice of a good nutritionist and not of any of us google warriors, and I'm gonna go enjoy New Year's now and stop being a basement computer fungus.
posted by nanojath at 1:08 PM on December 31, 2007

My OB told me that Splenda was safe - I was diagnosed at 32 weeks. I bet it hasn't been 2 weeks yet for you; there's a vague desperation, which I remember well, in the tone of your post.

At about a week or two post-diagnosis, after eating low carb/low sugar, it's like my taste buds rebooted themselves. I am an absolute diehard chocolate freak, and I had to cut it completely out (I know, everything in moderation, but initially, I couldn't get my numbers right unless I was eating the bare minimum of carbs, and I was using them on whole grains and fruit).

Eventually, half a navel orange [yeah, that's right - fucking HALF AN ORANGE. couldn't eat a whole one] tasted sweeter than any candy bar I'd ever had. I looked forward to my post-dinner orange-half like it was the most decadent dessert I could want.

I had started out using Splenda-sweetened yogurt for breakfast, but I eventually switched to plain - as in totally unsweetened - Trader Joes yogurt. The super-fatty Greek stuff. I had about 4 oz of it per serving (it's still got the lactose carbs), and it's so much better than artificially-sweetened.

This is hard, I know. But for me, the initial crushing sadness of my diagnosis was replaced with the thrill of anal-retentive Excel charting, food-combination experiments, and pride in my ability to control my numbers. Oh, and I maintained the same weight through the last 2 months of pregnancy (WHICH WAS TOTALLY OK WITH MY OB), and was at my pre-pregnancy weight before my 2 week post-delivery check-up.
posted by peep at 1:24 PM on December 31, 2007

Usually with the diagnosis of "Gestational Diabetes" your OB will refer you to a dietician. They are the perfect ones to ask. If you haven't been referred, ask for the referral.
posted by 6:1 at 5:11 PM on December 31, 2007

Absolutely consider talking to a dietitian recommended by your OB/GYN.

Splenda can cause cramping and diarrhea in some people. I know this because I have Crohn's disease and have found that one of my relatives has been unintentionally trying painfully empty my intestines by failing to mention that she's feeding me Splenda in desserts or Atkin's "friendly" pasta, both of which are real bowel looseners and not so good if you're already, shall we say, problematic.
posted by plinth at 9:37 PM on December 31, 2007

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