Sugar cravings during pregnancy may come at a cost to unborn babies, a new study suggests. Researchers found that pregnant women who consumed between 80 and 350 grams of sugar per day—roughly one to three liters of Coca-Cola—were more likely to have children with allergies and asthma. Past research has linked sugar intake in children themselves to asthma risk, but this is the first evidence to suggest that mom’s sweet tooth may be to blame as well.
“The dramatic epidemic of asthma and allergies in the West in the last 50 years is still largely unexplained,” coauthor on the study Annabelle Bedard of Queen Mary University of London, told CNN. “One potential culprit is a change in diet.”
The study, published in European Respiratory Journal, analyzed data from 8,956 mother-child pairs obtained from a large dataset on children born in the 1990s. When Bedard and her team compared the 20 percent of mothers with the highest sugar intake to the 20 percent of mothers with the lowest sugar intake, they found that kids born to sugar-obsessed moms were 38 percent more likely to test positive for any allergen, 73 percent more likely to test positive for two or more allergens, and 101 percent more likely to have asthma along with at least one skin allergy.
Bedard and colleagues controlled for several variables, but since the study was observational they cannot say definitively that sugar during pregnancy causes allergies—simply that there’s a correlation worthy of further study.
“The first step is to see whether we can replicate these findings in a different cohort of mothers and children,” coauthor Seif Shaheen, also of Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement. “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.”
Until then, Shaheen recommends that women follow current guidelines and avoid excessive sugar consumption during pregnancy, especially if they are at risk for gestational diabetes. Double dessert just isn’t worth it.