Excess Sugary Consumption During Pregnancy May Up Risk of Asthma in Children

New study finds a link between the child's health and the mother's diet during pregnancy.

Excess Sugary Consumption During Pregnancy May Up Risk of Asthma in Children

WHO recommends reducing sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy


  • Mother's diet during pregnancy may affect the child's health
  • Excess sugar consumption can also lead to gestational diabetes
  • High sugar intake was linked with a 38% risk of developing allergies
Excess sugar consumption has long been tied to triggering a host of health ailments. The World Health Organisation recommends reducing intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake. With most processed and packaged food items containing 'hidden sugar', identifying and steering clear of it becomes quite difficult. Sugary drinks' consumption is now seen as one of the biggest perpetrators of obesity across the globe. Experts have now warned pregnant women to also watch their sugar intake lest they put their newborn at risk of ailments.

While high consumption of sugary foods comes with its own set of health risks such as obesity, kidney trouble and sudden blood glucose spikes causing insulin imbalance, a new study shows that it may be particularly detrimental to pregnant women and their children. According to the study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, women who consume too many sugary foods while being pregnant put their child at the risk of developing allergies and even allergic asthma.

We already know that the prenatal period in a woman's life has an impact on her pregnancy ave but this new study points out a link between the child’s health and the mother’s diet during pregnancy. Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London examined data from more than 9000 mother-child pairs who are a part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children which is an ongoing research project that tracks the health of families with children born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992. 

They looked at the kind of allergies that can produce respiratory and skin-related symptoms such as dust mites, cats and grass. For instance, allergic asthma causes breathing problems, wheezing and coughing due to an allergy to dust. To assess the risk, researchers calculated the amount of free sugars consumed by the women during pregnancy based on self-reported estimates with the help of questionnaires. They compared these estimates with allergies and asthma diagnosed in children after the age of 7 years. 

The results showed that almost 62% of the children did not develop any allergic condition, but the remaining had one or more allergies or symptoms. About 16% had eczema, 12% had asthma, 11% had wheezing with whistling, and 9% developed hay fever, the researchers found. Researchers also compared the children on the basis of the amount of sugar their mother consumed. The children of mothers whose sugar intake was the highest (between 82 and 345 grams, or 16 and 69 teaspoons, per day) had a 38% risk of developing an allergy and a 73% risk of developing an allergy to two or more allergens. This risk of allergic asthma was also considerably high in this group - double that of kids born to women in the low-sugar group. 

However, the researchers conclude that the results are only observational and they will continue to study other groups of children to understand the actual effect of a mother’s diet on the risk of allergies in the offspring. Sweets are probably the most craved foods during pregnancy. However, too much of anything will is always a problem. One of the biggest health risks associated with excess consumption of sugar during pregnancy is gestational diabetes. Therefore, it is advisable to follow general nutritional guidelines and avoid indulging in too many sugary foods. 

“To beat sugar cravings, eat small meals every 3 hours, reach out for a bowl of fresh fruits for a sudden sweet attack and make sure you get adequate sleep as lack of sleep increases the urge to eat. Excessive sugar craving can also be a sign of a deficiency in minerals like zinc or magnesium that are involved in glucose metabolism,” shares Weight Management Expert Dr. Gargi Sharma. 
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