Researchers have discovered a scary new reason to avoid diet soda

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If you haven’t been scared off of Diet Coke by now, this might be what does it.

Researchers have found that women who regularly consume diet soda and other soft drinks may be impacting their chances of getting pregnant. A study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine congress in Salt Lake City, UT, earlier this week found a link between artificial sweeteners and lower fertility rates. (Another reason to seriously avoid that Splenda.)

The researchers interviewed 524 women, all of whom were undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), about the foods and beverages they consumed. They found a strong correlation between artificial sweeteners and lower fertility rates, while added sugar in soft drinks and coffee was associated with poorer-quality eggs and embryos. (Unsweetened coffee, however, had no effect on egg quality or pregnancy chances—phew.)

Keep in mind, though, that this study focused on women who were going through IVF and therefore their fertility was in question. And a spokesman for the British Dietetic Association said the study made no effort to determine whether the weight of the women was a factor or not—even though many researchers blame obesity as the main factor in pregnancy issues.

But according to professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, the study “suggests the false promise of artificial sweeteners that are found in soft drinks and added to drinks, such as coffee, may have a significant effect on the quality and fertility of women’s eggs and this may further impact on the chances of conception,” he says. “There should be more scrutiny of food additives and better information available to the public and, in particular, those wishing to conceive.”

In the meantime, maybe it’s time to cut diet soda out of your life—and switch to better-for-you natural coffee sweeteners—just in case?

Ready for your post-diet-soda life? Wellness Council member Kimberly Snyder shares her best tips for kicking the caffeinated habit, once and for all. Or ditch the sweet stuff altogether with our beginner’s guide to cutting out sugar.

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