Licorice Consumption During Pregnancy Raises Risk of ADHD


Finnish researchers found that an excessive consumption of licorice during pregnancy may lead to behavioral disorders in the baby

The list of foods that should be avoided during pregnancy may expand with one more member. A new study developed at the University of Helsinki in Finland shows that excessive licorice consumption during pregnancy may lead to behavioral disorders in the baby, such as ADHD. The study can be found in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study co-author, Katri Räikkönen, and her team of researchers suspect that the active ingredient found in licorice, glycyrrhizin, may increase the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, thus affecting the neurologic development of the fetus.

Licorice can bring some medicinal benefits. For instance, it is good in the alleviation of canker sores and peptic ulcers. However, it can prove dangerous if it is consumed in large quantities.

A previous published in Medical News Today in November showed that licorice may cause the reduction of fertility in women. Also, if women consume licorice during pregnancy, this may lead them to lower birth outcomes, such as reduced birth weight.

For this new study, the Finnish researchers looked at how licorice influences the cognitive development of fetuses. They discovered that the active ingredient was a strong inhibitor of a placental enzyme that blocked the production of glucocorticoid hormones, such as cortisol.

Thus, glycyrrhizin increases the production of glucocorticoids, and the excessive exposure to these hormones during pregnancy is known to be related to the development of psychiatric disorders.

They analyzed data on 378 children with an average age of 13. Also, they assessed the psychiatric states of the children and evaluated their cognitive functions. Then, they gathered data on glycyrrhizin intake of their mothers during pregnancy. Those who consumed 249 milligrams or less per week were classified under low intake, while those who consumed 500 milligrams (this means about 250 grams of licorice_ or more per week were classified under high intake.

The results showed that children whose mothers had had a higher licorice intake during pregnancy scored lower in memory tests. Also, they were more likely to develop ADHD. As a somehow non-related result, girls appeared to start puberty earlier if their mothers consumed high amounts of glycyrrhizin.

More results are needed to establish for sure that there is a direct link between increased licorice consumption during pregnancy and cognitive disorders, but mothers should be aware of what they should and shouldn’t eat during pregnancy so as to avoid further problems with their babies.
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