The Risks of Sugar in PregnancyWritten by simplymaternity on Wednesday 11th of November 2015
Wherever you look at the moment, there are people talking about the risks of sugar. The likes of Jamie Oliver are leading the way by putting up the prices of children’s sugary drinks in his restaurants (though surely putting down the price of healthier drinks would have been more altruistic!). But what isn’t so hot in the headlines is the risks that too much sugar can have in pregnancy. And frankly, that is where we think it should begin.
What Is Sugar?
In its rawest form sugar is carbohydrate that originates from plant extract. Coming from either sugar cane or sugar beet, it is actually a natural substance. But unlike other forms of carbohydrate in our diet, sugar is a product that the body simply does not need.
Yes, it tastes nice and gives us more satisfaction in our drinks and food. But when it comes down to the crunch, it can be more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes, yet no one gives you a second glance if you are walking down the street eating a Mars Bar at 36 weeks. If you did the same thing with a pint of beer, there might be a few more heads turning.
These days sugar is in everything, and the lower your food budget, the greater chance that sugar has been used to improve the flavour of your food. Take a look at a jar of Value Mayonnaise and each tablespoon could contain more than 10% of the recommended sugar intake for an entire day. Or investigate the label on your favourite ‘healthy’ fruit juice, the results could blow your mind.
The Risks of Sugar in Pregnancy
As recently as last month there has been research carried out showing that having too much sugar in pregnancy can be dangerous for the baby and for mum.
In the worst case scenario, a woman can develop gestational diabetes from having too much sugar in their diet. And though most women who suffer from this syndrome go on to have healthy babies, others will suffer from oversized baby syndrome which can make birthing difficult. Or in extreme cases can lead to brain damage or even death.
Even if you are not diagnosed with diabetes in pregnancy, a high sugar intake could lead to metabolic abnormalities, heart defects or a greater propensity to develop diabetes in the future, all without you even understanding the risks.
Even for those babies born healthily, the extra fat stores produced by elevated sugar levels in the womb can lead to other health issues, including childhood obesity and the resulting health issues that come with it.
Most mothers who develop gestational diabetes will recover after the birth, but the risks associated with birthing an oversized baby and the pressure it can have on your own internal organs can be tremendous.
What Can We Do Today
The simple answer is to reduce the sugar intake in your diet as quickly and as significantly as you can. And we’re not just talking about the sugar you know is there in terms of chocolate, fizzy drinks and breakfast cereals. More importantly, we are talking about the excess levels of sugar you can’t see in things like tomato ketchup, diet foods and crisps.
But the more you can reduce your sugar intake, the better opportunity you and your baby have for a much healthier life.
Once your taste buds have changed to accommodate a low sugar diet you will wonder why you ever needed it in the first place. Mood swings, cravings and slumps in energy are less likely to occur if you consume less sugar. And the risks of gaining weight or developing Type II diabetes in later life also fall dramatically.
No one is saying it is easy, and the food industry is definitely against this cause. But by making a few adjustments in your diet, the effect could be tremendous.
National Guidelines for Sugar Consumption
Currently the World Health Organisation states that any adult should consume no more than 50g or 12 teaspoons of added sugar in anyone day – far less than you would get from a single small bottle of Coke. Yet, a new UN survey states that even these levels are too high and that our daily intake should be closer to 25g or 6 teaspoons.
Just think, if you take two sugars in your tea and you have three cups of tea a day, you are already consuming as much sugar as the UN suggests you should for your entire diet. And that’s even before you start eating.
So think about what you are doing. If you can’t find a hot drink that doesn’t include sugar then try boiled water. Add lime, lemon or mint to give flavour and the improvement you can make can be incredible.
When you want a snack, opt for a few sliced vegetables or make your own granola bars. There are millions of healthy recipes out there. And the more you can change before your baby is born, the more opportunity your child has for a healthy life as they are growing up.
Recent reports suggest that sugar is now becoming the fastest growing health concern across the world. So make sure you are not its next victim.