UK: Study links child asthma with high sugar diet during pregnancy

Published: 07/06/2017, 11:52:59 AM

Women who eat too much sugar during pregnancy are doubling the chance of their child going on to develop asthma, new research suggests, according to the UK's Telegraph newspaper.

A study of almost 9,000 mother and child pairs starting in the 1990s found a link between free sugars, such as those found in fizzy drinks and processed food, and the inflammatory disease.

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London compared the 20% of mothers who consumed the most sugar, equivalent to more than five teaspoons a day, or two cans of full-fat coke, to the 20% who had the least.

They found that the children of those in the top category had a roughly a one in five chance of developing asthma, while those in the lowest category had a one in ten.

Scientists have long tried to explain the increase in prevalence of asthma over the last half century.

Changes in diet, and in particular a heavier reliance on sugar, have been suspected as a leading cause, but until now there has been sparse research into the role of sugar during pregnancy.

It is thought the sugar link with asthma may be explained by high intakes of fructose triggering an immune response leading to inflammation in developing lungs.

Lead researcher Professor Seif Shaheen said: "We cannot say on the basis of these observations that a high intake of sugar by mothers in pregnancy is definitely causing allergy and allergic asthma in their offspring.

"However, given the extremely high consumption of sugar in the West, we will certainly be investigating this hypothesis further with some urgency.

"The first step is to see whether we can replicate these findings in a different cohort of mothers and children.

"If we can, then we will design a trial to test whether we can prevent childhood allergy and allergic asthma by reducing the consumption of sugar by mothers during pregnancy.

"In the meantime, we would recommend that pregnant women follow current guidelines and avoid excessive sugar consumption."

The study is published in the European Respiratory Journal.