High-fructose diet during pregnancy may restrict foetal growth: Study

New York: For mothers-to-be, consuming high-fructose diet during pregnancy may cause defects in the placenta and restrict foetal growth, warns a study, adding that this may increase the baby’s risk of developing metabolic health problems in adulthood.

The findings suggest that it may be possible to devise a prenatal screening test and treatment plan for pregnant women with high-fructose levels.

“It is becoming increasingly critical to understand how fructose consumption is impacting human health. This study shows potentially negative effects of a high-fructose diet during pregnancy,” said senior study author Kelle H. Moley from Washington University in St. Louis.

“The negative effect of excess fructose in humans is likely to lead to an exacerbation of the problems seen in mice,” Moley stated in the paper published in the online journal Scientific Reports.

Elevated levels of uric acid and triglycerides in healthy mice that were fed a high-fructose diet during pregnancy resulted in smaller foetuses and larger placentas than those fed standard rodent chow.

To assess the relevance of the mouse data in pregnant women, the team examined the association between fructose and placental uric acid levels in a small controlled group of 18 women who underwent scheduled cesarean sections.

The women had no disorders that would have caused elevated uric acid.

“We found a correlation suggesting similar maternal and fetal effects occur in humans,” Moley said.

“Small fetus may grow more after birth as in later adulthood they try to compensate it by struggling with obesity and other health problems,” Moley added.

In the mouse model, researchers found that giving mice with high-fructose levels the common drug allopurinol – a prescription medication that reduces uric acid – reversed the refined sugar’s negative maternal and foetal effects by reducing the levels of uric acid in the placenta.

Besides advising pregnant women to limit fructose in their diets, treatment for those with high-fructose levels may include administering allopurinol, which crosses the placenta and generally is considered safe to take late in the second or third trimester during pregnancy, Moley said.