High sugar intake in pregnancy linked with childhood asthma
The potentially harmful effects of sugar intake during pregnancy are back in the spotlight.
A large research study involving almost 9,000 mums and their babies has found a worrying link between high sugar intake during pregnancy and the risk of allergy and allergic asthma in children.
While previous research has found an association between pregnant women's consumption of sugary drinks and asthma in children, the link between maternal sugar intake during pregnancy and allergy and asthma has not been examined in great detail before.
The team, led by Queen Mary University of London and researchers from University of Bristol, used data from a world-leading birth study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), also known as 'Children of the 90s'. The project scientists recruited mothers who were pregnant in the early 1990s and have followed their children ever since.
The findings, published in the European Respiratory Journal, showed a strong association between mums' high sugar intake and allergic asthma at seven years of age. Team leader, Professor Seif Shaheen from QMUL, says sugar is a major concern in Western cultures:
"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 children. However, given the extremely high consumption of sugar in the West, we will certainly be investigating this further and with some urgency."
The research, which was funded by the European Respiratory Society, found that when comparing the 20 percent of mums with the highest sugar intake versus the 20 percent with the lowest intake, there was an increased risk of 38 percent for allergy in children - 73 percent for allergy (to two or more allergens) and 101 percent for allergic asthma. However, the team found no association with eczema or hay fever.
Professor Shaheen, a leading expert in respiratory diseases, advises that mums-to-be should avoid excessive sugar consumption:
"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."