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Why You Shouldn’t Consume High Fructose Corn Syrup If You’re Pregnant?

June 06, 2017

High-fructose corn syrup, a form of artificial sugar, shouldn’t be a staple in your diet. But if you’re pregnant, it’s even more critical to avoid it.

High-fructose corn syrup is typically added to foods like sodas, desserts and fruit juice, but it’s also hidden in applesauce, ketchup, crackers and even some deli meat.

We know consuming too much sugar isn’t a pathway to a healthy diet. Sugar is filled with empty calories. But when we talk about high-fructose corn syrup, we’re not talking about the same type of fructose that naturally occurs in fruit, maple syrup or honey. High-fructose corn syrup is added sugar that the body processes differently than these natural sugars — and that is a key difference that could affect pregnant women and their unborn children.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup & Pregnancy

Existing research has shown a connection between a high-fructose corn syrup diet and potential harm during pregnancy.

One study, performed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found that a diet filled with this artificial sweetener could affect fetal growth and cause the placenta to enlarge.

The researchers studied mice to draw their conclusions. They found mice who ate a high-fructose corn syrup diet had higher levels of uric acid and triglycerides. Uric acid is a chemical found in urine and stool, and high levels of this chemical can create metabolic issues that lead to obesity and other chronic conditions. Triglycerides are fats in the blood that your body uses for energy, but too many triglycerides can increase your risk for chronic conditions like heart disease.

In addition to higher levels of uric acid and triglycerides, the mice who ate a high-fructose corn syrup diet also had smaller fetuses and larger placentas than mice who ate a standard diet.

Researchers even went a step further to support their findings. They conducted a small follow-up study with 18 pregnant women who had scheduled C-sections. These women also had high uric acid levels, leading the researchers to conclude a link between consuming too much high-fructose corn syrup and possible negative effects on the fetus and mother during pregnancy.

The possible link between consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and metabolic issues during pregnancy is concerning because these issues can increase the risk of low birth weight and the risk of future cardiometabolic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease or stroke, when these children get older. Metabolic issues during pregnancy also can lead to complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, or pregnancy-related high blood pressure.

What the current research shows is there’s a link between consuming artificial sugar and potential health issues during pregnancy, but no study has yet proven a direct cause and effect relationship. Either way, high-fructose corn syrup shouldn’t be a main part of anyone’s diet. Pregnant women with high-fructose levels can be prescribed a drug called allopurinol to lower their uric acid levels, but nature is still the best cure for this issue.

Pregnant women — and anyone who aims to lead a healthy lifestyle — should limit high-fructose corn syrup in their diet and focus on eating whole grains and nutrient-dense natural foods and avoid packaged foods filled with additives and artificial ingredients. Doing this will improve your odds of having a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy baby.

Are you interested in learning more about Orlando Health's primary care physicians?

As your healthcare needs change, Orlando Health physicians are here for you every step of the way. Our primary care physicians can provide care for every stage of life — from having a baby, to infant, child and adult care, and on through retirement — performing regular checkups, diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries, managing chronic conditions and discussing actions to promote your wellness. 

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