You probably know that salted caramel ice cream and those gourmet cream-filled doughnuts aren’t exactly good for you. But when you’re eating for two, and you’ve already given up wine and most of your daily caffeine supply, you need a little room to indulge, right? Unfortunately, it seems that loading up on sugar during pregnancy can have some additional consequences—ones that go beyond making you gain a little extra baby weight. Here are four recent findings that will make you think twice about going overboard on sugar and carbs during pregnancy.
1. Sugar consumption can lead to obesity in your kids. In a new study of 1,078 mothers and their kids, researchers found that mothers who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages during pregnancy were more likely to have kids who were obese by around age 7. The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, found that every additional serving of sugary beverages a mom-to-be drank a day was associated with an extra 0.15 kg/m2 of fat mass.
2. Sugar could be linked to allergies in kids. Another 2017 study from the Queen Mary University of London found that mothers’ sugar intake was associated with an increased risk of their kids developing asthma and allergies. The researchers looked at 9,000 mothers and did allergy tests for dust mites, cats and grass on their kids when they were seven years old. They also tested for asthma. The study showed a strong relationship between high sugar intake in moms and kids with allergies and allergic asthma.
3. Excess fructose could affect the placenta and fetal growth. Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis studied the effects of a high-fructose diet during pregnancy in both mice and people. Because fructose breaks down differently than glucose, it can have different health effects. Researchers found that mice who ate high-fructose diets had increased levels of uric acid and triglycerides, as well as smaller fetuses and larger placentas—all of which could lead to metabolic problems for babies later in life. And when researchers tried a similar study on a small group of women, they found the same results.
4. Other refined carbs are also to blame. Unfortunately, if you regularly opt for chips instead of chocolate, you aren't much better off. After all, processed foods—from white bread to pasta—just break down into sugars in the body. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with gestational diabetes who ate a diet high in refined grains were more likely to have kids who were obese by age 7.
All this bad news about sugar might sound like another pregnancy buzz kill, but scientists see it as a good thing. Conditions like obesity and asthma are notoriously hard to treat, but if we have tools to prevent them before they develop, we have a better chance of leaving the next generation a little healthier.