The role of maternal diet on a child's prenatal development is something that is taken seriously by most expecting mothers. Now researchers have found a link between high sugar intake during pregnancy and the child's increased risk for eventually developing asthma and allergic asthma.
Increasing Asthma And Allergy Prevalence
It was previously believed that the declining intake in antioxidants is responsible for the increase in the prevalence of atopy and asthma. According to this hypothesis, the lessened intake of antioxidants in Westernized countries has also negatively affected the pulmonary defenses, which leads to pulmonary vulnerability.
Between the years of 1970 and 2000, however, a 25 percent increase in refined sugar consumption was recorded in the United States. Researchers are now looking into another hypothesis, in which it is not the antioxidant intake that is responsible for the prevalence of asthma and atrophy in recent decades but the expecting mother's sugar intake.
What they found was that children whose mothers recorded a higher sugar intake during their pregnancy were generally more at risk of developing allergic asthma.
Sugar Intake Log
What researchers did was to recruit women who were expecting to deliver a child between April 1, 1991 and Dec. 31, 1992. The mothers recorded their maternal diets using a food questionnaire at 32 weeks of pregnancy. In the questionnaire, they detailed their consumption of 43 food groups per week, as well as their daily consumption of food items such as coffee and tea.
Using the data they gathered from the questionnaires, researchers were able to estimate the mothers' free sugar intake based on their total energy intake and daily nutrient intake. Free sugar intake does not take into account the sugars present in milk, as well as in vegetables and fruits.
At age 7.5, the children were assessed as to which of them had doctor-diagnosed asthma and which among them had experienced conditions such as eczema, wheezing, or hay fever in the last 12 months.
Based on the information the researchers have gathered, 12.2 percent of the children had doctor-diagnosed asthma, 10.7 percent had wheezing with whistling, 8.8 percent had hay fever, 16.2 percent had eczema, and 21.5 percent had atopy.
Based on this information, the researchers found little evidence to support a direct correlation between maternal free sugar intake and childhood asthma or wheezing and atrophy. However, the link was much stronger with regard to allergic asthma, which is essentially an asthma diagnosis accompanied by a strong sensitivity to allergens.
Specifically, children whose mothers reported high sugar intake during pregnancy were 38 percent more likely to test positive for an allergen and 73 percent more likely to test positive for two or more other allergens when compared to children whose mothers had low-sugar diets.
Researchers believe that high sugar intake may affect inflammation during the development of the lung tissue, which affects the child's risks and vulnerabilities to allergens.
Because of these findings, researchers believe that high sugar intake during pregnancy may affect the child's risks for developing asthma and atopic asthma. This is especially relevant in the West, where both high sugar consumption and childhood asthma diagnoses are prevalent.
Perhaps this study is yet another reason to take serious steps in considering the things we put into our bodies, especially among expecting mothers who also need to take the growing child inside them into consideration.
The study is currently published in the European Respiratory Journal.