Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that eating a lot of sugar may impair your ability to conceive and lead to numerous health problems during pregnancy.
The study focused on fructose, and didn’t distinguish between the concern of high-fructose (as in corn syrup) or just high fructose (as in lots of fructose). No mention was made of corn syrup or fruit in general.
Fructose is the main sugar in fruit–and corn. It is different than glucose because it is broken down by liver cells and turned into triglycerides, the main constituent in fat. It drives high levels of uric acid (a waste product also found in urine and poop), which can wreak havoc on your metabolic system.
According to the CDC, about a third of adults in the U.S. have metabolic syndrome. It is characterized by the siblings of high triglycerides: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and larger deposits of fat around the waist. It is also associated with decreased fertility and complications of pregnancy.
To get pregnant, the embryo and uterus have to be prepared just right at just the right time, or the baby won’t implant, or “stick.” High fructose levels in mice led to smaller litters (more problems with implantation).
If the embryo does implant in a mother with high fructose levels, the baby is more likely to be born unhealthily small. The researchers are suggesting that these small babies may grow to have metabolic problems as their bodies try to compensate for restricted growth in utero.
Mothers can also develop problems in pregnancy. Kelle H. Moley, MD, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Metabolic and the senior author of the study said, “Problems caused by high levels of uric acid and fat increase a woman’s risk of developing pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia…and gestational diabetes.”
You can check your fructose levels through a simple blood test. In case your levels are high, in typical American fashion, there is already a drug for that. Mice who were given allopurinol, frequently taken for gout and kidney stones, didn’t have the negative effects for mom or baby.
We eat way too much sugar, we’ve all heard it before, and despite the main message being that there’s a drug to fix it, the study authors do bring up the need to reduce sugar consumption in their press release.
Birth teachers who prepare women for healthy pregnancy and birth frequently talk about nutrition. Midwives are more likely than OBs to discuss the importance of nutrition during prenatal visits, but there are few of either who really get specific and work with women to change their diets. This is unfortunate since we know that what you eat in pregnancy affects not only your pregnancy but your baby’s health and what your baby will want and need to eat when it is born.
But sugar is really addicting, especially as an emotional crutch. It’s fun to eat and hard to give up. I’m talking about myself now. In case it sounds like I am also talking about you, here are some ways that I worked to stop eating sugar during pregnancy.
You have billions of cells that make up your body. All they care about is you. They don’t want all that sugar! It’s very stressful for the poor little things. Especially if you’re trying to get pregnant, or if you’re pregnant and concerned with healthy pregnancy and baby, this new research provides are a few more reasons to skip some of the sugar.
Image credit: Michel Stern: Flickr/CC