A study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) involving University of Bristol researchers and almost 9,000 mother-child pairs shows high maternal sugar intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of allergy and allergic asthma in the offspring.

The team used data from a world-leading birth cohort study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), also known as Children of the 90s. The cohort found and recruited mothers who were pregnant in the early 1990s and has been following up their offspring since then.

The current study published now in the European Respiratory Journal, analysed link between maternal intake of free sugars in pregnancy and allergy (defined by positive skin tests to common allergens, namely dust mite, cat and grass) and asthma at seven years of age.

While there was only weak evidence for a link between free sugar intake in pregnancy and asthma overall, there were positively strong  associations with allergy and allergic asthma (where the child was diagnosed with asthma and had positive skin tests to allergens).

The 20% of mothers with the highest sugar intake when compared  versus the 20% of mothers with the lowest sugar intake, had an increased risk of 38% for allergy in the offspring (73% for allergy to two or more allergens) and 101% for allergic asthma.

The team thinks that the associations may be explained by a high maternal intake of fructose causing a persistent postnatal allergic immune response leading to allergic inflammation in the developing lung.

The study was funded by a European Respiratory Society long-term fellowship.

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