Science and Tech


New study finds link between diet drinks and boys with autism

Researchers ​looked at mothers of children with autism and their estimates of how many drinks with aspartame they consumed while pregnant.
A dark-colored soda in a clear glass with ice cubes.
Posted at 3:11 PM, Sep 27, 2023

A new study has found a link between boys diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and their mothers regularly drinking diet sodas or beverages with aspartame during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio said aspartame sweeteners have been reported to cause neurological problems in some users since it was first introduced and it has also been associated with increased health problems in children whose mothers consumed it daily during pregnancy. 

Their case-control study, published in a journal titled “Nutrients,” looked at 235 mothers of children with an autism diagnosis and their written estimates of how many diet drinks or drinks with aspartame they consumed while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

They found that boys were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder if their mothers consumed these products daily than those who did not. There was no statistically significant association found in girls, the study said. 

The researchers said their findings need to be tested on a larger sample size and include additional risk factors, but, for now, it should be noted that early-life exposure to these products could possibly affect neurological development. 

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization declared aspartame as a “possible” carcinogen that could lead to cancer.