Mother’s sweet tooth may be to blame for childhood allergies

Researchers studying the relationship between the levels of free sugar consumed by mothers during pregnancy and respiratory and atopic outcomes in their children have found a link to greater risk of allergies and allergic asthma.

Consumption of free sugars has been increasing internationally in the past few decades. For example, between 1970 and 2000, there was a 25% increase in the per capita consumption of all refined sugars in the USA. Previous studies have connected high consumption by children of sugar sweetened drinks and fruit juice with greater risk of asthma. However the possible role of maternal consumption of free sugar during pregnancy has not previously been studied.

The study cohort included almost 14,000 children born in the UK between April 1991 and December 1992. The cohort has been followed since birth with annual questionnaires and, between ages 7 and 9 years, objective measures were taken annually in research clinics.

Comparison of the 20 per cent of mothers with the highest sugar intake during pregnancy against the 20 per cent with the lowest indicated a 38 per cent increased risk that the children whose mothers consumed the higher amounts of sugar would have an allergy. There was also 101 per cent increased risk for allergic asthma in these children. These findings were independent of sugar intake levels in the children.

Further work needs to be done to firm up evidence that mothers who consume lots of sugar could increase their child’s risk of developing allergies or allergic asthma, in particular by testing whether the findings can be replicated in other cohorts of mothers and children.

Reference: Bédard et al. 2017. The European Respiratory Journal Vol 50(1). Doi: org/ 10.1183/13993003.00073-2017. Open access is available for this article.