Photo by Tom Sharrow/

Researchers are only just beginning to uncover the host of dangerous health problems that come as a result of too much sugar. While the connection between consumption of sugar (and of sugar-sweetened beverages in particular) and certain pervasive health problems such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay has been well established, our understanding of many of the less obvious, but equally insidious, costs of too much sugar is still in the early stages. The latest shocking research comes from a study recently published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, which argued that sugar consumption during pregnancy can negatively affect the health of the child.

Bad for the Baby

The study, conducted by Dr. Juliana Cohen, found that consumption of excessive amounts of sugar by mothers during pregnancy negatively affected childhood memory and learning. Specifically, heavy prenatal sugar consumption was associated with poor verbal knowledge and non-verbal skills like problem-solving in infants. The researchers analyzed data from 1,000 pregnant women and their infants consistently over the course of three years, and again when the children turned seven.1

Beyond the significance of prenatal diets, the authors found that infants who consume too much sugar were similarly affected. This was particularly true of heavy consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which the study points out are the greatest single contributor of added sugars to the American diet.2

All the More Reason to Regulate Sugar

The study comes at a turning point of sorts, insofar as U.S. lawmakers and regulators, not to mention the general public, are beginning to focus on the dangers of too much sugar. Added sugar in particular— the kind that is ubiquitous in everyday commodities from processed and canned goods to drinks—has come under heavy scrutiny, as reflected in the Food and Drug Administration’s latest amendments to the Nutrition Facts label.

The study’s authors refer to this specifically and use their findings to encourage a more timely and serious response to Americans’ unhealthy sugar habit: “This study provides evidence that there should be no further delays in implementing the new Nutrition Facts label. The new label will provide information on added sugars so that pregnant women and parents can make informed choices regarding added sugars and more easily limit their intake.”3 As previously discussed on Tasteaholics, new labels were agreed upon last year but have yet to be put in place. The number of scientific studies targeting sugar (and added sugar specifically) is increasing every year, and regulation has been slow to catch up. Indeed, the public health crisis caused by too much sugar demands that public officials keep pace with the research.


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