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Pregnant women should avoid liquorice – it is unhealthy for the child

Posted March 31, 2017

Pregnant women have to really watch their diet. They are responsible for the health of the child they are carrying and every therefore every expecting mom should follow strict medical advices. Now scientists say that one potential threat has been missing from these guidelines – pregnant women should avoid liquorice as well.

May not look delicious for many, but liquorice candy are popular in many countries. Now scientists say pregnant women should not eat too many. Image credit: Tiia Monto via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientists say that some liquorice may not do significant damage to the child, but some people love this sweet so much that they eat it all the time. However, at least during pregnancy they should reduce the consumption of liquorice as much as possible, because scientists linked it with reduced cognitive ability of children. They analysed cognitive reasoning of children and found that those, who were exposed to large amounts of liquorice in the womb, performed less well. The difference is quite substantial – it is equal to approximately seven IQ points. There were other problems as well – these children did not have as good memory as those, who were not exposed to large amount of liquorice in the womb, more often had ADHD and girls usually hit puberty earlier.

This research included 378 youths of about 13 years whose mothers had consumed “large amounts” or “little/no” liquorice during pregnancy. Liquorice is very popular in many countries. For example, in Finland, where this study was conducted, it is considered traditional and it is sold in large quantities in various fairs and in grocery stores. This type of candy contains natural sweetener glycyrrhizin, which is considered to be the reason why there is an effect on unborn children. Interestingly, in Finland liquorice is already placed in “not recommended” category for pregnant women, but the real damage to the foetus has only been specified now.

Scientists say that small amount of liquorice is not harmful. Pregnant women do not have to run away from ice cream with liquorice and even a couple of candies once in a while will not do too much damage. However, large amounts of liquorice may get in a way of cognitive development of the child as well as cause early birth. It has been proven before that liquorice causes higher blood pressure and shorter pregnancies.

In many other countries liquorice candy is not even that popular, which means that doctors do not even consider informing pregnant women about them. But people travel a lot and therefore it should be known that liquorice could cause some health issues both for the mother and her child.


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