Are Olestra and Sweet 'n' Low Safe for Pregnant Moms?

Dear Sue:
I am 25 weeks into my second pregnancy, and I have two questions. Is it okay to replace sugar with Sweet 'n' Low? How about consuming Olean?

Thanks,
-- Sally

Question:
ABOUT THE EXPERT

Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Sally:
Olean, also known as Olestra, is a new fat substitute, a synthetic mixture of sugar and vegetable oil which passes through the body undigested. Because it is not absorbed, it does not enter the bloodstream and will not reach your baby.

There seem to be a few negative effects associated with eating Olestra. When it is eaten with any food containing carotenoids (such as beta-carotene from carrots or lycopene from tomatoes), those carotenoids are poorly absorbed. Olestra has also been shown to deplete the body of vitamins A, D, E and K (the fat-soluble vitamins). Other side effects may be diarrhea, greasy stools and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Because pregnancy is a time when you need extra vitamins and minerals, it doesn't make sense to eat a food that may rob you of them. Pregnancy comes with its own set of digestive problems, too, so why compound them with a synthetic food substance? Your diet should contain only foods that provide nutritional value, and that excludes potato chips and salty snacks -- with or without Olestra. Along with more vitamins and minerals, you also need extra calories and energy -- not less. Reducing your caloric intake by eating too many low-calorie foods may not be conducive to your baby's health.

Unless you are being treated for gestational diabetes, the use of sugar is fine. Nutrasweet (aspartame) and its use during pregnancy is covered in another question and answer: Is aspartame safe during pregnancy?

All the best to you for a healthy and happy pregnancy!

Sincerely, Sue Gilbert, M.S., Nutritionist

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