It’s no secret that moms-to-be often develop a sweet tooth during pregnancy, but new information suggests high-sugar foods and drinks may double their child’s risk for developing asthma and allergies later in life.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London used data gathered from nearly 9,000 mother-child pairs in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an ongoing research project that tracks the health of families with children born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992.
During the study, the participating pregnant women were asked about their weekly intake of certain foods and specific food items including sugar, coffee and tea. Their responses were used to calculate their intake of added sugar.
The researchers only saw weak evidence to suggest a link between women’s added sugar intake and their children’s chances of developing asthma overall. But when they looked specifically at allergic asthma—in which an asthma diagnosis is accompanied by a positive skin test for allergens—the link was much stronger. Children whose moms were in the top fifth for added sugar during pregnancy were twice as likely to have allergic asthma when compared to children whose moms were in the bottom fifth.
Children of mothers with the high-sugar diets were 38% more likely to test positive for an allergen and 73% more likely to test positive for more than one allergen, compared to those kids whose moms stayed away from added sugar.
"The dramatic 'epidemic' of asthma and allergies in the West in the last 50 years is still largely unexplained -- one potential culprit is a change in diet," said Annabelle Bedard, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary's Centre for Primary Care and Public Health Blizard Institute. "Intake of free sugar and high fructose corn syrup has increased substantially over this period."
As with most studies, a cause and effect was not established, only an association. The study’s authors believe that the association is strong enough to warrant further investigation.
Lead researcher Professor Seif Shaheen said: "We cannot say on the basis of these observations that a high intake of sugar by mothers in pregnancy is definitely causing allergy and allergic asthma in their offspring.
"However, given the extremely high consumption of sugar in the West, we will certainly be investigating this hypothesis further with some urgency.”
There are many health reasons why pregnant women should limit their intake of high-calorie and sugary foods and drinks. This research suggests that it may be prudent for the health of their unborn child as well.
Story sources: Susan Scutti, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/05/health/sugar-pregnancy-child-allergy-asthma-study/index.html