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Developmental biology - Pregnant Nutrition

Limit sugar in your diet when pregnant

Increasing sugars in your pregnant diet risks your child's intelligence...

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine new research has determined that poorer childhood cognition occurred, particularly in memory and learning, when pregnant women or their offspring consumed great quantities of sugar. Substituting diet soda for sugar-sweetened sodas during pregnancy also appeared to have negative effects. However, children's fruit consumption was measured as beneficial and expressed in higher cognition scores.

Research is increasingly focusing on the adverse impact of sugar on health, especially high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar consumption among Americans is above recommended limits, and the Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes the importance of reducing calories from added sugars. Sugars are incorporated into foods and beverages during processing. Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) are the greatest contributor of sugar to an Americans diet. Evidence is also emerging that sugar consumption may negatively impact children's cognitive development.
"The aim of our study was to examine associations of pregnancy and offspring sugar consumption (sucrose, fructose) with child cognition. Additionally, we examined associations of maternal and child consumption of SSBs, other beverages including diet soda and juice, and fruit with child cognition."

Juliana F.W. Cohen ScD, School of Health Sciences, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA; Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA., and lead investigator.

Investigators collected dietary assessment data for more than 1,000 pregnant women from 1999 to 2002 who participated in Project Viva. Their offspring's diets were assessed in early childhood. Child cognition was assessed in early- and mid-childhood (at approximately age 3 and 7, respectively).

The results of this study indicate that consuming more fruits and less sugar and diet soda during pregnancy, may have a meaningful impact on child cognitive functioning. Key findings include:

• Maternal sugar consumption, especially from SSBs, is associated with poorer childhood cognition including non-verbal abilities to solve new problems and poorer verbal memory.

• Maternal SSB consumption is associated with poorer global intelligence associated with both verbal knowledge and non-verbal skills.

• Maternal diet soda consumption is associated with poorer fine motor, visual spatial, and visual motor abilities in early childhood and poorer verbal abilities in mid-childhood.

• Childhood SSB consumption is associated with poorer verbal intelligence at mid-childhood.

• Child consumption of both fructose and fruit in early childhood are associated with higher cognitive scores in several areas and greater receptive vocabulary.

• Fruit is additionally associated with greater visual motor abilities in early childhood and verbal intelligence in mid-childhood.

• Fruit juice intake is not associated with improved cognition, which may suggest benefits from fruits are from phytochemicals, and not from fructose.

Comments Dr. Cohen: "This study provides evidence that there should be no further delays in implementing the new Nutrition Facts label. The new label will provide information on added sugars so that pregnant women and parents can make informed choices regarding added sugars and more easily limit their intake. This study also provides additional support for keeping federal nutrition programs strong, such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program, because their promotion of diets higher in fruits and lower in added sugars may be associated with improved childhood cognition."

Sugar consumption among Americans is above recommended limits, and excess sugar intake may influence cognition. The aim of this study was to examine associations of pregnancy and offspring sugar consumption (sucrose, fructose) with child cognition. Additionally, associations of maternal and child consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), other beverages (diet soda, juice), and fruit with child cognition were examined.

Among 1,234 mother–child pairs enrolled 1999–2002 in Project Viva, a pre-birth cohort, in 2017 diet was assessed during pregnancy and early childhood, and cognitive outcomes in early and mid-childhood (median ages 3.3 and 7.7 years). Analyses used linear regression models adjusted for maternal and child characteristics.

Maternal sucrose consumption (mean 49.8 grams/day [SD=12.9]) was inversely associated with mid-childhood Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT-II) non-verbal scores (–1.5 points per 15 grams/day, 95% CI= –2.8, –0.2). Additionally, maternal SSB consumption was inversely associated with mid-childhood cognition, and diet soda was inversely associated with early and mid-childhood cognition scores. Early childhood consumption of SSBs was inversely associated with mid-childhood KBIT-II verbal scores (–2.4 points per serving/day, 95% CI= –4.3, –0.5) while fruit consumption was associated with higher cognitive scores in early and mid-childhood. Maternal and child fructose and juice consumption were not associated with cognition. After adjusting for multiple comparisons, the association between maternal diet soda consumption and mid-childhood KBIT-II verbal scores remained significant.

Sugar consumption, especially from SSBs, during pregnancy and childhood, and maternal diet soda consumption may adversely impact child cognition, while child fruit consumption may lead to improvements. Interventions and policies that promote healthier diets may prevent adverse effects on childhood cognition.

Authors: Juliana F.W. Cohen, ScD'Correspondence information about the author ScD Juliana F.W. CohenEmail the author ScD Juliana F.W. Cohen, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, MPH, Jessica Young, PhD, Emily Oken, MPH, MD

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Apr 25, 2018   Fetal Timeline   Maternal Timeline   News   News Archive

Consuming more fruits and less sugar and avoiding diet soda during pregnancy, can have a beneficial effect on a child's cognitive function, according to a new study. Image credit: Public domain.

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