Does Eating Sugar During Pregnancy Increase Child's Allergy Risk?
A study, recently published in European Respiratory Journal, investigated the potential link between pregnant women’s consumption of certain types of sugars and the development of allergy and asthma in their children. Specifically, the scientists were interested in “free sugars,” which do not include sugars found in whole fruits and vegetables.
The researchers evaluated families with children born in 1991 and 1992 and did not find any correlation between sugar intake and eczema or hay fever. They also failed to find a significant relationship between sugar consumption and asthma generally.
The researchers did, however, find that higher sugar consumption was significantly associated with allergy and the allergic form of asthma. Specifically, the 20% of mothers who ate the most sugar during pregnancy were 38% more likely to have children who developed allergies or allergic asthma than the 20% of mothers who ate the least sugar. The highest sugar intake was 82-345 grams per day, which is equivalent to 16-69 teaspoons per day. In contrast, the lowest sugar intake was less than 34 grams (or 7 teaspoons) per day.
The identified correlation between sugar intake and allergy and allergic asthma does not mean that eating more sugar during pregnancy causes allergies or allergic asthma in children. Further research needs to be conducted to determine if these findings can be replicated.
If the findings appear robust, the next step will be to determine whether sugar can actually increase the risk for allergic conditions, or if some other factor may impact both sugar intake and allergy development. Interestingly, sugar intake in children has not been shown to impact the chance of developing allergies or allergic asthma.
Researchers hypothesizing any mechanisms that could explain a causal link have pointed to lung development and suggested that high levels of fructose could cause inflammation in the developing lungs. However, this idea has not yet been tested so there are no data to confirm or deny this concept.