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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Food Additives/Preservatives and Pregnancy

A new preservative or sugar substitute seems to appear on the market every week, guaranteed to cut calories or fat, improve taste, or make food last longer. The safety of these substances takes on new importance when you're pregnant. Here's the scoop on several of the most common food additives: MSG, Olean, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Splenda.


MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid. It is used in foods to intensify and enhance flavor, but it does not have any flavor of its own. Some people are highly sensitive to MSG and they may experience headache, dizziness, sleep disturbance, nausea, and vomiting after eating food containing MSG.

There is no evidence that MSG has any toxic effect on adults or unborn babies; therefore, the Food and Drug Administration has classified MSG as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe for consumption). However, MSG is very high in sodium and may contribute to water retention. If you are retaining a lot of water, or are usually sensitive to MSG, you may want to avoid foods that contain it.


Olean, also known as Olestra, is a synthetic mixture of sugar and vegetable oil and is used as a fat substitute in some foods. Olean is passed through the body undigested, so it is not absorbed, does not enter the bloodstream, and will not reach your baby.

However, Olean has been shown to deplete the body of vitamins A, D, E, and K. In addition, when eaten with any food containing carotenoids (such as beta-carotene in carrots or lycopene from tomatoes) these important nutrients are poorly absorbed. Olean may also cause diarrhea, greasy stools, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

While Olean will not harm you or your baby directly, you need extra vitamins and minerals while you are pregnant, which Olean has been shown to deplete. In addition, pregnant women usually experience some digestive problems, and Olean may increase this discomfort. You also need extra calories and fat while pregnant, so reducing both by eating products made with Olean robs you and your baby of necessary nutrients.

Aspartame, Saccharin, and Splenda

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in most diet soft drinks and other sugar-free treats. It is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar, so the quantity necessary to flavor foods is drastically reduced, thereby decreasing the total calories.

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