Mums-to-be, Be Alert! Too Much Sugar May Up Your Child’s Asthma Risk

What a woman eats during her pregnancy period is widely believed to have an impact on her health as well as her child’s growth and development in the womb, or even affect the baby’s food preferences in adulthood.

sugar intake during pregnancyAdding more to this belief, researchers at Queen Mary, University of London warned too much sugar intake during pregnancy could elevate children’s odds of developing allergies and asthma.

In their study, the researchers found that excess consumption of sugary foods and drinks by mums-to-be doubled the risk of their child to develop allergic asthma, the most common form of asthma, later in life.

Lead study author Professor Seif Shaheen and colleagues came up with their findings after examining the data on about 9,000 mother and child pairs taking part in an ongoing world-leading birth cohort study, named Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The study tracks the health of families with kids born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992.

The research team found that prenatal exposure to free sugars, commonly found in processed food and fizzy drinks, was linked to the inflammatory disease risk in children.

The team compared moms who ate the least amount of free sugars (less than 7 teaspoons per day) to those who consumed the most ( equivalent to 16 to 69 teaspoons daily), and found children born to mothers in the high-sugar group were 73 percent more likely to be diagnosed with an allergy to two or more allergens and 101 percent more likely to develop allergic asthma

“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,” said Prof. Shaheen.

The authors acknowledged that their study is observational, and it does not show a cause-and-effect relationship between eating sugar during pregnancy and kids’ allergy and asthma risk. A randomised controlled trial is needed to determine a causal link between the two and determine if childhood allergies and allergic asthma risk can be slashed by decreasing sugar in pregnant mom’s diet.

“The first step is to see whether we can replicate these findings in a different cohort of mothers and children. If we can, then we will design a trial to test whether we can prevent childhood allergy and allergic asthma by reducing the consumption of sugar by mothers during pregnancy. In the meantime, we would recommend that pregnant women follow current guidelines and avoid excessive sugar consumption,” Prof. Shaheen concluded.

The study appears in the July 6 issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

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