Research suggests that expectant mothers who drink non-diet soft drinks are more likely to have overweight children.
The study analysed data from over 1,000 mother-child pairs and found that each serving of soda consumed per day during the pregnancy was incrementally more likely to cause obesity in the child.
“Sugary beverages have been linked to obesity in children and adults,” said study author Sheryl Rifas-Shiman of Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“Childhood obesity is widespread and hard to treat, so it’s important to identify modifiable factors that occur prenatally and during infancy so prevention can start early.”
The research time met the mother during the pregnancy and in the period post-birth, while the children were assessed at around three and eight. Questionnaires were also issued to the mothers every year for the child’s first six birthdays.
Over the course of their pregnancies, women were asked about what they usually ate and drank, with this including how much soda, fruit juice and water they drank each day.
When the children were visited in their mid-childhood, their height, weight and waist circumference were measured, as was their BMI and body fat percentage.
The researchers found that the children of mothers who drank at least two servings of high-sugar sodas each day were more likely to be overweight. They also found that it was only regular full-sugar sodas that were linked to the likelihood of obesity, with juice, water and diet sodas having no link, nor was there a link between the amount of sugary drinks consumed by the children themselves.
Only regular sodas were associated with this difference.
“I was surprised that maternal intake seemed to be more important than child intake,” Rifas-Shiman noted.
“I was struck that the differences in children’s body composition were seen in relation to intake levels that appear unremarkable, even less than one serving per day,” said Sian Robinson of the University of Southampton in the UK, who wasn’t involved in the study.
We need to know more about the long-term effects of maternal nutrition on offspring health. Few intervention studies in pregnancy have longer-term follow-up data to describe the effects on children’s body composition.”
“The links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity are well-established,” she said. “But this new data suggests mothers’ consumption is important and has public health relevance.”