Aspartame consumption during pregnancy impairs placenta growth in mice through sweet taste receptor-reactive oxygen species-dependent pathway

Shih-Yi Huang, Rong Sun, Yang-Ching Chen, Lin Kang, Chung-Teng Wang, Ching-Feng Chiu, Hung-Tsung Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically over recent years, and so has the prevalence of adverse obesity-associated pregnancy outcomes. To combat obesity, the calorie contents of many foods and beverages may be reduced by the use of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame. However, animal studies suggest that aspartame and its metabolites may exhibit toxicity, and the effects of aspartame on pregnancy are largely unknown. In this study, we treated pregnant mice with aspartame by oral gavage and found that the treatment decreased fasting blood glucose level, whereas systolic blood pressure was elevated. Importantly, the aspartame-treated animals also had low placenta and fetus weights, as well as reduced thickness of the placenta decidua layer. Moreover, aspartame decreased the expression of epithelial-mesenchymal transition proteins and manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) in mouse placentae. In order to clarify the mechanisms though which aspartame affects placenta, we performed experiments on 3A-sub-E trophoblasts. In the cells, aspartame treatments induced cell cycle arrest and reduced the proliferation rate, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, migration activity and invasion activity. We also found that aspartame increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels to hyper-activate Akt and downregulate MnSOD expression. Pretreatment with antioxidants or sweet taste receptor inhibitors reversed the effects of aspartame on trophoblast function. We also found that the aspartame metabolite phenylalanine similarly induced ROS production and affected proliferation of trophoblasts. Taken together, our data suggest that aspartame consumption during pregnancy may impact the structure, growth and function of the placenta via sweet taste receptor-mediated stimulation of oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109228
Pages (from-to)109228
JournalThe Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Aspartame
  • Oxidative stress
  • Phenylalanine
  • Placenta
  • Sweet taste receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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