Did you know what mama eats or drinks when pregnant could affect the baby in her belly when it’s out of her belly later in life?
Research has found high intake of sugary foods during the third trimester may increase the risk of allergies and allergic asthma in children, and studies in animals have shown high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) can result in offspring with higher blood glucose, blood pressure and risk for overweight.
Now, in a new study, researchers have linked high SSB consumption by pregnant women with greater risk for their children becoming overweight later in life.
Using a food frequency questionnaire, 1,078 pregnant mothers were assessed for sugary and non-sugary beverage intake during first and second trimesters. This included soft drink, fruit drinks, 100% fruit juice, diet soft drink or water.
Years later, children of this cohort between 6 and 11 years of age had their beverage intake assessed, and were measured for body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, skinfold thickness, and scanned for fat mass.
What was found?
25% of the children were considered overweight or obese based on BMI. Obesity measurements like waist circumference and skinfold thickness were highest in this group.
And the worrying part: the mums of these kids were found to have consumed 2 or more serves of SSB a day during the second trimester of pregnancy – namely soft drinks and fruit drinks. This led researchers to draw the link between sugary drink consumption during pregnancy and increased risk of their kids being overweight.
If you are wondering what the researchers determined a ‘serve’ of a sugary drink, according to the questionnaire 1 serve of a carbonated beverage is a 12oz (about 350ml) glass, bottle or can.
Researchers found every additional sugary drink serving during the second trimester increased the likelihood for the child to be overweight later in life. And results were independent of factors like mum’s ethnicity/race, the child’s sex, or surprisingly, the amount of SSB the child themselves consumed.
Trying to treat childhood obesity
It is important to note that when we discuss obesity or being overweight, it is with reference to being beyond a healthy weight for your shape, size and ethnicity and not a judgement on anyone’s appearance. Having too much weight increases risk for many health complications, some affecting everyday quality of life, some life threatening.
“Childhood obesity is widespread and hard to treat. So it’s important to identify modifiable factors that occur prenatally and during infancy so prevention can start early, ” said study author Sheryl Rifas-Shiman of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston.
Reducing SSB intake can be a straightforward modifiable factor, but consumption should be considered in the context of entire lifestyle and diet; is someone who drinks 2 or more sugary drinks a day likely to have an unhealthier diet overall, and feeding their kids unhealthy foods too?
The study found those mums who drank more sugary drinks during pregnancy had a higher pre-pregnancy BMI, lower education and income, more likely to be smokers, and breastfed for less time and introduced solids earlier.
Regardless, whether pregnant or not, sugary drinks aren’t great and should be avoided, or limited at best.
And for all those living with mums-to-be, be sure to help her out by keeping unhelpful food and drink out of the house and limiting your consumption at the same time.
Pregnant mamas are undertaking great work growing a baby, and need all the support they can get to ensure a happy, healthy baby.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- Gillman, MW Rifas-Shiman, SL Fernandez-Barres, S Kleinman, K Taveras, EM & Oken, Emily 2017, “Beverage Intake During Pregnancy and Childhood Adiposity”, Pediatrics, [ePub ahead of print].