May 8, 2016
High Fructose Consumption Now Associated With Pregnancy Risks For Mothers And Babies

Doctors already knew that taking in too much fructose can lead to diabetes and obesity, but now there is reason to believe that high fructose intake might have unintended risks during pregnancy. New research shows that a diet high in fructose might lead to problems with the placenta during pregnancy and fetal defects. Researchers say that they have linked high-fructose consumption during pregnancy with harm to both mother and baby.

Fructose is the sugar that is found naturally in fruits and some vegetables. Fructose is commonly used in the food industry to create high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This form of fructose can be found hiding in everything from breakfast cereal to bread. HFCS can be found in mayonnaise, canned vegetables, sauces and soups. It's so common to add HFCS to food that when foods and beverages do not contain HFCS, they usually boast about it on the product label. This form of fructose can even be found in baby formula!

According to the senior author of the new study, Dr. Kelle H. Moley, from the Washington University School of Medicine, there has been a significant increase in consumer consumption of HFCS in recent years. The CDC reports that adults get about 13 percent of their caloric intake from sugars these days, and much of the time, the sugar is consumed in the form of fructose.

"Since the early 1970s, we've been eating more fructose than we should," Dr. Moley explained. "It is becoming increasingly critical to understand how fructose consumption is impacting human health."

The Inquisitr reported previously that HFCS is believed to be addictive. Canadian researchers suspect that this form of fructose may be as addictive as cocaine. This recent uptake in consumption is particularly worrisome to the research team given the results of their new study published in Scientific Reports, a journal from Nature Publishing Group.

To better understand how consuming excessive amounts of fructose can affect pregnancy, the research team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis first served pregnant mice either standard chow or chow that was high in fructose. Then, they compared the outcomes for the two groups of mother mice and baby mice, Medical News Today reported.

The researchers said that fructose is processed differently in the body than other forms of sugar. When fructose is processed by humans, it's broken down by liver cells by converting the sugar into the form of fat known as triglycerides. While this happens, uric acid levels increase. As expected, the mice fed the high-fructose chow had higher levels of triglycerides and uric acid than the mice fed standard chow. The team also discovered that the mice who had consumed the high-fructose chow had larger placentas and smaller fetuses than the mice that had consumed the standard chow. The placentas had higher concentrations of uric acid. Then, after birth, these baby mice experiences quicker growth than normal while their bodies attempt to compensate from the poorer fetal conditions.

"The body tries to compensate for the small growth in utero," Dr. Moley explains. "These babies can become kids and then adults struggling with obesity and other health problems."

The researchers then checked to see if the same issues might be found in humans when mothers consume diets high in fructose during pregnancy. A sampling of pregnant women who had scheduled c-sections showed that the women who reported consuming more fructose did experience similar effects including higher uric acid concentrations in the placenta and higher triglyceride levels. The higher uric acid and triglyceride levels also raises the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes during pregnancy, a press release announced. The authors commented that the research indicates that increased fructose consumption during pregnancy is likely to lead to increased negative outcomes in both women and their babies.

Dr. Moley notes that eating natural foods during pregnancy instead of processed foods that are more likely to contain fructose is the best way to reduce the risk of poor maternal and fetal outcomes. Dr. Moley and the team also indicated that treating mothers who show signs of high uric acid levels with the xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol can help prevent placental inefficiency, improve fetal weights, and lower serum triglycerides among women who are unable to significantly reduce their fructose intake during pregnancy.

[Image via Pixabay]