Researchers conclude that drinking soda during pregnancy causes obesity in offspring

Expecting mothers who wish to have healthy children should avoid soda while pregnant. According to a new study in Pediatrics, the more soda a pregnant woman drinks, the more likely her child will be obese later in life. Even just two sugary beverages a day is enough to increase a child’s risk of obesity.

For the purposes of their study, the researchers selected and analyzed 1,078 mother-child pairs from eight obstetric offices affiliated with Atrius Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. They then visited the mothers during several key points: at the end of their first and second trimesters, during the first months after the birth of their babies, and when the children entered early childhood and middle childhood.

At every visit during their pregnancy, the women completed questionnaires about their dietary habits, which included queries about their intake of sugary and non-sugar beverages. At the early and mid-childhood visits, the researchers measured each child’s height and weight before determining body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). Moreover, the researchers took down information about both parents and the households during all the visits.

Once the study had been completed, the researchers discovered that mothers who had drank at least two sugary beverages per day had children with the highest BMI, waist circumferences, and skinfold thickness. Only regular soda was found to have such an effect, however. Consumption of water, juice, and diet soda had no discernible impact on the childrens’ BMI.

The researchers have speculated that the results may be due to the children inheriting their mothers’ predilections for sugary beverages, or that the children acquired their preferences in the midst of their gestation. Another theory is that sugary beverages were simply more readily available to the children during their childhood.

“I was struck that the differences in children’s body composition were seen in relation to intake levels that appear unremarkable,” Siân Robinson, Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Southampton, said of the study. “We need to know more about the long-term effects of maternal nutrition on offspring health. This new data suggests mothers’ consumption is important and has public health relevance.” (Related: Are parents to blame for childhood obesity? Study shows 10 percent of parents are feeding their toddlers adult-sized portions)

Just say no to soda during pregnancy

In addition to setting up children for obesity, frequent soda consumption has been linked to other detrimental health effects.

According to American pediatrician Dr. William Sears, a 12-ounce can of soda is loaded with ten teaspoons of sugar, leading to soda highs and lows that can wreak havoc on an expecting mother’s insulin levels, and her baby’s growth. Beverages made with high fructose corn syrup are no better since these also contribute to childhood and adult obesity.

The caffeine content in soda won’t do a mother-to-be any favors either. The caffeine high generates a sugar high, followed by a sugar low, in turn causing another caffeine craving that will most likely result in a circle of sugar highs and lows.  In addition, excessive amounts of caffeine can interfere with sleep quality and induce a diuretic effect that may bring about dehydration and constipation.

Moreover, soda is filled with extra calories that can cause extra weight gain. It can also steal calcium from bones.

“I definitely recommend you wean yourself off caffeine-containing sodas while pregnant. Just don’t buy them — out of sight is out of stomach,” said Sears. “If it isn’t good for mother, it isn’t good for the baby.”

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