Sugary drinks in pregnancy leads to weight woes
Expecting? Better put down that Big Gulp.
A new study by Harvard University researchers has found that pregnant women who forgo sugar-sweetened beverages — specifically soda and fruit drinks — may help their children avoid excess weight and even obesity later in childhood.
The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, is part of Project Viva, a multipart ongoing study to examine numerous factors’ effects on child development before and after birth. The project receives funding from the National Institutes of Health.
The study’s findings involved nearly 1,100 Massachusetts mother-child pairs. Researchers looked at the women’s sugary and non-sugary beverage intake during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy between 1999 and 2002. The mothers filled out several questionnaires, and the researchers conducted in-home visits, including one when the children were in middle childhood, with a median age of nearly 8.
Among 8-year-old boys and girls of average height, their weights were about a half-pound more for each additional serving per day of sugary beverages their mother consumed in her second trimester.
For 8-year-olds who drank at least half a sugary drink a week and whose mothers consumed at least two sugary beverages a day during midpregnancy, the children’s weights were about two pounds more. The results were nearly the same among the children who drank less than that if their mothers drank the sugary beverages in pregnancy.
The worst weight outcomes appeared to be linked to mothers who consumed soda, followed by sugary fruit drinks.
“We found that replacing sugary beverages with water, 100 per cent fruit juice, or milk had a greater beneficial effect on child weight than did replacing the sugarsweetened beverages with diet soda,” said Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, a biostatistician with Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. Diet soda consumption was associated with slightly higher fat levels.
The study suggests that children’s weight gain may have a more developmental cause and that other characteristics of the drinks, including the sweeteners used, may matter more than high calories alone.