Pregnant women eating artificial sweeteners are linked with the increased risk of infant obesity, but this has yet to be determined. Researchers studied whether or not artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) during pregnancy could change the gut bacterial make-up and function of a newborn during the first year of life, and if these were associated with infant body mass index (BMI). In a study of 100 Canadian infants (50 ASB exposed and 50 ASB non-exposure) from the Canadian CHILD Cohort Study, it was found that those who were exposed to ASB during pregnancy had a higher BMI. Infant stool and urine were collected in early infancy (at 3-4 months) and late infancy (at 12 months) for analyzing 16S rRNA gene sequencing and untargeted metabolomics respectively. There were four microbiome clusters, two of which imitated the typical developmental pattern of the infant gut bacterial communities from immature (Cluster 1) to mature (Cluster 4) however, two different clusters deviated (Clusters 2 and 3) from the pattern. There was not much difference in the Maternal ASB consumption between clusters but led to significant shifts in the bacterial taxonomic structure of the guts of infants and decreased level of several Bacteroides sp. in Cluster 2. In the study, infants exposed to ASB had higher levels of urine succinate at age 3 months. One-year-old children who had higher urine succinate also had a higher BMI. In general, exposure to ASB during gestation was linked to the gut microbiota in infants from cluster 2, and the gut microbiota was linked to infant BMI. Exposure to ASB positively correlated with infant urine succinate and spermidine. Succinate was linked to a 29% reduction in the effect of ASB on BMI at one year old, suggesting that this metabolite may play an important role in the development of childhood obesity-related to gestational ASB consumption. Childhood obesity is a pressing concern. To combat it, researchers should study how maternal ASB consumption affects infant metabolism.  

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