Health

Liquorice not so sweet for mums-to-be

Mums-to-be, watch the liquorice.

Glycyrrhizin, a sweetener from the root of the liquorice plant used to flavour candy and soft drinks, increases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which may affect development of the fetal nervous system, according to a study by scientists at the University of Helsinki.

Children whose mothers consumed more than 500mg of glycyrrhizin a week - equivalent to 250g of pure liquorice - scored seven points lower in IQ tests on average, compared with those whose mothers ate less than 249mg of the sweetener.

The risk for attention deficit disorder problems for this group of children also tripled.

Girls in the high-consumption group also tended to reach puberty earlier and have a higher body mass index.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, was done on 1,049 mothers and their children who were born in 1998.

Professor Katri Raikkonen, the study's lead author, acknowledged the limitations of an observational study but still advised that mothers-to-be avoid eating glycyrrhizin.

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