Researchers have suggested that excessive sugar consumption during pregnancy may harm children’s cognitive development, Ingredients. News reports. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at sugar in the diets of 1,234 pregnant women. It found children of those with the highest sugar consumption during pregnancy, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, had lower cognitive scores for memory, verbal skills and motor skills. Consumption of artificially sweetened drinks also was linked to lower scores, while children who ate the most fruit had higher cognitive scores. While researchers adjusted their results to account for a range of other health and socioeconomic factors, mothers who consumed the most sugar were more likely to have smoked during pregnancy, have lower education levels and lower incomes. Consumers continue to be wary of sugar and artificial sweeteners, spurring manufacturers to look for alternatives. According to Mintel data, 84% of Americans say they are limiting the amount of sugar in their diet, and 79% check labels for the types of sugar or sweetener used. There are plenty of good reasons to limit sugar, both during pregnancy and among the general public, as excess sugar has been associated with increased health risks, including obesity, tooth decay or cavities and heart disease. However, it is interesting to note that reported average sugar consumption in this study was in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended limits mothers consumed about 50 grams of added sugar a day, or about 200 calories worth. On average, Americans consume an estimated 77 grams of sugar a day (about 300 calories). Even so, study participants still consumed about twice the World Health Organization’s recommended 25-gram daily limit. This is not the first study to look at the effect of maternal sugar consumption and children’s sugar consumption on a child’s cognitive health. Other studies have had contradictory results and a review of 16 interventions found no association. Another unusual aspect to this study was the correlation that children had lower scores in cognitive tests even when their mothers consumed artificially sweetened soft drinks. Earlier studies have found no such link when examining children’s sweetener consumption and cognition. Regarding these latest findings, as with any observational study, it is possible that the link between sugar and children’s cognition could be explained by other factors, and the researchers admit this could be the case.
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