If You’re Pregnant, You Should Be Eating WAY Less Sugar—Here’s Why

Updated: Mar. 30, 2022

If you're pregnant, please consider cutting back—way back—on the sugar-sweetened beverages because it can lead to health issues for your baby... even years down the road.

Pregnant woman eating fresh healthy saladnd3000/ShutterstockIf you’re an expectant mom, you’re probably following a healthy diet designed to prevent birth defects, lower the risk of autism, and make your baby as healthy, happy, and brilliant as possible. But those weird pregnancy cravings can make it challenging, right? Well, here’s something to motivate you to stay far, far away from sugary drinks: A recent study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society suggests that consuming sugary drinks during pregnancy can increase your child’s risk of asthma in mid-childhood.

The researchers, led by Lakiea S. Wright, MD, MAT, MPH and Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, MPH, knew that existing studies link asthma to obesity, and obesity to sugar-sweetened beverages and high fructose intake in general. But they wondered if obesity is actually the common denominator. Using data concerning 1,068 mother-child pairs who participated in an existing study designed to investigate ways to improve the health of expectant mothers and their children, the researchers analyzed how much the mothers consumed sugar-sweetened drinks and fructose while pregnant, how much the children consumed in early childhood (before age four), and which children were diagnosed with asthma by mid-childhood (between ages seven and eight).

What the researchers found was that higher intake during pregnancy was associated with mid-childhood asthma, independent of the child’s weight. Specifically, mothers who consumed the most during pregnancy were around 62 percent more likely to have mid-childhood-age kids with asthma. Higher intake during early childhood was also associated with mid-childhood asthma, independent of the child’s weight. Specifically, kids who consumed the most were 64 percent more likely to have asthma in mid-childhood.

“Fructose may cause inflammation in the lungs,” the study authors explained to EurekAlert as a possible reason for their findings. That said, since the study was purely observational, it can’t determine cause and effect. In addition, since most of the mother-child pairs were from affluent families, the findings may not be able to be generalized to families who are not affluent. Nevertheless, Rifas-Shifman believes that staying away from sugary drinks in pregnancy can help reduce the risk of having a child with asthma, and that keeping the kids away from sugary drinks in early childhood can also help to reduce that risk.

If you’re wondering whether you need to kick your sugar habit, here are the signs your sugar intake is too high.