Women who consume excessive sugar in their diet during their pregnancy may increase the risk of allergy and allergic asthma in their children, a study has claimed. The findings by researchers from the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), revealed that in mothers with the highest sugar intake — added to foods or drinks or sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices — there was 38 per cent increased risk of allergy in kids, 73 per cent for allergy to two or more allergens, and 101 per cent for allergic asthma.
The association is because high maternal intake of fructose causes a persistent postnatal allergic immune response that can lead to allergic inflammation in the developing lung, the researchers explained.
Importantly, the offspring’s free sugar intake in early childhood was found to have no association with the outcomes seen in the analysis, the researchers said.
For the study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, the team involved nearly 9,000 mother-child pairs.
They analysed associations between maternal intake of free sugar in pregnancy and asthma, wheezing, hay fever, eczema, atopy and lung function in children aged 7-9 years.
The results showed maternal intake of free sugar was positively associated with atopy and atopic asthma — the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
However, no association with eczema or hay fever was found.
“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,” said lead researcher Seif Shaheen, Professor from QMUL.
“However, given the extremely high consumption of sugar, we will certainly be investigating this hypothesis further with some urgency,” Shaheen said.
“In the meantime, we would recommend that pregnant women follow current guidelines and avoid excessive sugar consumption,” he added.