It may nothing more than a sweet treat now, but eating licorice during pregnancy could up your child's risk for disease as an adult, according to a study from researchers in the UK and Finland. What's the connection?
As reported in an August 8, 2010, edition of London's Daily Mail newspaper, the study looked at a group of 8-year-olds whose mothers ate licorice while pregnant, noting that these children had levels of the hormone cortisol up to a third higher than those children whose mothers had not eaten licorice. As researchers explained, cortisol helps the body deal with stress, but too much of the hormone in the body has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity in adulthood.
Experts believe the presence of the naturally occurring, very sweet ingredient glycyrrhizin in licorice affects the mechanism which regulates hormone levels, according to the Daily Mail. How much is too much? The study found that mothers who reported eating half a gram a week of licorice were more likely to have children with raised cortisol levels, with moms who ate the most licorice tending to have children with the highest cortisol levels.
Time to toss the licorice whips? For licorice-loving moms, clinical scientist Alexander Jones, one of the study's authors, recommends: "For those who eat a lot of licorice, it may be a good idea to cut down when pregnant."