28 June 2017

A multi-institutional CHILD Study research team involving the University of Manitoba and the University of Calgary has been awarded $75,000 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH), to investigate how consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy influences infant weight gain.

“In 2016, using CHILD Study data, we discovered that if a mother consumes diet drinks on a daily basis during her pregnancy, her infant has an increased risk of becoming overweight,” says Dr. Meghan Azad, an assistant professor in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba and a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM).

“The IHDCYH award announced today will allow us to investigate how a mom’s artificial sweetener intake during pregnancy affects her infant’s microbiome and metabolism, which could explain the increased risk of obesity we have observed. Ultimately, we hope this research will help inform nutrition recommendations for pregnant women and contribute to new strategies for childhood obesity prevention.”

The team will also compare CHILD Study data to environmental exposures information from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to evaluate how the air quality in and around the children’s homes may affect their lung health.

The research is one of 25 funded projects that will use existing data and biospecimens to answer novel research questions and test innovative hypotheses that have the potential to improve reproductive, maternal and child health outcomes. In total, IHDCYH will invest $1.85 million across the country.

Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta, an assistant professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, and Physiology & Pharmacology at the University of Calgary is a microbiome researcher and co-Principal Investigator for the new CHILD grant.

“Childhood obesity rates in Canada have doubled since 1970, with nearly one in three children now classified as overweight or obese,” says Dr. Arrieta. “Over the same period, the consumption of artificial sweeteners has steadily increased among adults, children, and pregnant women. We are delighted that the Government of Canada, through the CIHR, has invested in the opportunity to leverage CHILD Study data to improve our understanding of how the maternal diet influences infant weight—this demonstrates the strategic value of CHILD Study data as a platform for novel health research.”