Sugar Consumption During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Allergies

The number of children with allergies has increased significantly over the past 3 decades. In the past, allergies to food were very rare but these days many children seem to be allergic to several types of foods. So what gives?

A recent study suggests that perhaps the amount of sugar that the mother eats during pregnancy may be a major risk factor for allergies in the child. Previous reports also indicate that there may be a link between high sugar in the mother’s diet and a higher risk of asthma and allergies in children.

This new study published in the European Respiratory Journal followed nearly 9,000 pregnant women and their children in the early 1990s. During the follow-up the children were tested for common allergens like grass, dust mites, pet dander and asthma at age 7. Then the women were asked about their weekly consumption of certain foods including sugar, tea and coffee. Their responses were tabulated to calculate the total amount of sugar consumption. The natural sugars in fruits, dairy products and vegetables were not excluded.

Findings revealed that there was a weak link between consumption of added sugar consumption during pregnancy and the risk of developing asthma. But when the researchers looked specifically at allergic asthma, where the diagnosis was accompanied by a positive skin test for the allergen- the link was stronger. The study revealed that children whose mothers had the highest levels of sugar consumption during pregnancy were twice as likely to have children with allergic asthma compared to children whose mothers had the lowest intake of sugar.

The study also revealed that children whose mothers had high sugar diets were also more likely to test positive for an allergen than those mothers who stayed away from sugar. However, not all the allergic conditions noted were associated with maternal sugar consumption. The researchers found no link between high sugars and hay fever or eczema. And contrary to what has been reported in previous studies, these researchers found no link between the children’s own intake of sugar and any adverse health outcomes at age 7.

Overall the study was not able to show a direct cause and effect relationship but the research suggests that perhaps high consumption of sugar during pregnancy may be associated with inflammation in the developing airways, leaving some children predisposed to allergies. Experts in asthma believe that the increased consumption of refined sugars may explain the increase in allergic asthma seen in the last few decades. The best advice is for pregnant mothers to cut down on consumption of sugars.