Does a sugary diet during pregnancy increase the risk of asthma in children?
It is not news that diet during pregnancy is important for the health of the growing fetus. Asthma is one condition that has been shown to occur more frequently in the offspring of those who do not eat well during pregnancy or are obese. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that a new study, performed by researchers at Harvard University and published in the Annals of American Thoracic Society, has found that the amount of sugar ingested during pregnancy could be predictive of a child’s likelihood of developing asthma.
To evaluate the impact of maternal sugar intake on a child’s risk for asthma, the researchers investigated data from 1068 Massachusetts mothers and then collected information on the diets and asthma status of their children when they were 3 and 7 years old. The researchers controlled for several non-dietary factors that could potentially lead to differences in the health of offspring, including the sex of the child, the mother’s education level, age, and smoking habits, and the body mass index and race of the mother and child.
When researchers focused on the impact of sugar, they found that the mothers who consumed the highest amounts of fructose or sugary beverages during the 1st and 2nd trimesters of their pregnancy were more likely to have children who developed asthma by the age of 7 than those who consumed the lowest amounts of sugar. They also found that children who ingested higher amounts of fructose or sugary beverages early in life were also more likely to develop asthma than those who consumed less of these sugary substances.
While these new data implicate sugar in the development of asthma, they do not provide evidence that sugar intake causes asthma. They also do not provide information on the mechanism by which sugar may lead to asthma. However, given that sugar has increasingly been shown to lead to health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, lowering sugar intake may be a good idea, regardless of its effects on the development of asthma or other allergic conditions. Many juice and soda beverages have large quantities of sugar, and so cutting these drinks can go a long way in reducing sugar consumption.