Here’s another reason to watch your sugar intake—especially if you’re expecting a little one.
A study led by Harvard University researchers finds that kids may be more prone to having asthma if moms drink a lot of sugary drinks while pregnant.
Excess weight is a risk factor for asthma, and too much sugar in the diet can cause it. Of expectant moms who drank an average of two sugar-sweetened beverages a day, their kids were over 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with asthma when they were 7 to 9 years old compared to moms who did not drink sugary drinks while pregnant.
Dr. Emily Oken, a study co-author and professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the fructose used to sweeten the drinks could drive more risks by enabling inflammation.
“One of the theories is if you have a predisposition to allergic disease and you have a further hit that makes you more predisposed to get inflammation, that will increase your risk even more,” Oken said.
The researchers looked at data on 1,068 mother-and-child pairs as part of a study investigating pregnancy health. Moms who drank the drinks with the most sugar while pregnant—about two cans of soda a day—were 63 percent more likely to have kids with asthma when compared to those who did not drink sugary beverages.
Also, kids that consumed drinks with high-fructose corn syrup also had an increased asthma risk. Of those who drank the most of those beverages, 64 percent were more likely to have asthma compared to those who drank less.
“We found that children may be at a greater risk for developing asthma in mid-childhood if they consumed more fructose in early childhood or their mothers consumed more sugary beverages in pregnancy,” said Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, a co-author.
“Recent studies suggest that in addition to increasing asthma risk through obesity, fructose itself may cause inflammation in the lungs,” she added.
Oken noted that they don’t see the same level of adverse events from fruit juice—maybe because it contains vitamins and other anti-inflammatory factors.
The researchers warn that the study cannot prove that sugary drinks cause asthma in kids.
Pregnant women are warned to watch their caffeine intake, but there are not guidelines any sugar intake limits.
There is an ongoing effort currently in place to extend dietary guidelines to pregnancy and infancy (from birth to 24 months, which may soon provide additional guidance about the best diet to get kids off to a good start in life, Rifas-Shirman added.