Sugary drinks during pregnancy can cause mid-childhood asthma

written by Meena Azzollini

pregnant woman drinking juice

Credit:123RF

Asthma is a respiratory condition which affects the airways of the lungs causing wheezing, breathlessness and tightness in the chest affecting both adults and children.

Many children who have asthma start showing the symptoms before the age of five. The underlying causes of asthma in children are not very clear but developing sensitive immune systems generally plays a role.

There has been a link between the development of asthma in children and the intake of fructose corn syrup sweetened beverages in school children according to previous studies.

Mothers in the highest quartile of sugar-sweetened beverage during pregnancy were 63 per cent more likely than mothers in the lowest quartile to have mid-childhood aged kids with asthma.

But there is very little information about when during the early development stages of children does exposure to fructose influence health in later years.

To examine the link between maternal prenatal and early childhood intake of sugar sweetened beverages and fructose with current asthma in mid-childhood, researchers undertook a study which involved 1068 mother-child pairs participating in Project Viva, a longitudinal study based in Eastern Massachusetts designed to find ways to improve the health of mothers and their children.

The mothers completed a questionnaire after their first and second trimester about their food and beverage intake including their regular soda and fruit drink consumption.

When their children reached early childhood (3.3 years), they completed another questionnaire about their child’s food and beverage intake including regular soda and fruit drink consumption.

Based on these responses, the researchers calculated fructose intake and analysed results based on quartiles of sugar-sweetened beverage and fructose consumption.

Fructose consumption was included because it is a major contributor to total sugar intake and may have specific effects on airways according to the researchers.

Asthma in mid-childhood was determined by a mother reporting a doctor’s diagnosis of asthma, including wheezing and asthma medication used in the past year.

The study found that in mid-childhood, 19 per cent of the children had asthma. Mothers in the highest quartile of sugar-sweetened beverage during pregnancy were 63 per cent more likely than mothers in the lowest quartile to have mid-childhood aged kids with asthma. Mothers in the highest quartile of fructose consumption were 61 percent more likely than mothers in the lowest quartile to have mid-childhood aged children with asthma.

All adjustments were made for pre-pregnancy body mass, age, race or ethnicity and other factors that may affect the results. The difference between the top and bottom quartiles was about 2 vs. 0 servings per day of sugar-sweetened beverages and 46 vs. 21 grams per day of fructose.

The study found that’s kids in the highest quartile of fructose consumption during their early childhoods were 64 percent more likely than those in the lowest quartile to have asthma in mid-childhood, when adjusted for maternal sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, remained the same after adjusting for mid-childhood-age body mass. The difference between the top and bottom quartiles was about 44 vs. 15 grams per day of fructose.

Previous studies have shown a link between obesity and asthma and between sugar-sweetened beverage and high fructose intake and increased asthma risk.

This study concludes that higher sugar sweetened beverage and fructose intake during pregnancy and in early childhood may influence childhood asthma development apart from obesity as fructose may cause inflammation in the lungs.

The verdict is out on sugar-sweetened beverages with many studies showing its harmful effects on our health and now this study shows us how it may be responsible for our child’s respiratory health, along with high fructose consumption.

Source: Annals of the American Thoracic Society


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!