Scientists have highlighted a disturbing trend that suggests women who consume large amounts of liquorice during their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to kids with developmental disabilities.
Scientists have identified a component of liquorice thought to be responsible, known as glycyrrhizin. The study was conducted using as many as 378 youngsters at the age of 12.
Interestingly, their mothers had either never consumed liquorice (or had eaten little), or had consumed large amounts of liquorice. An amount of liquorice equal to 500 mg and above consumed per week was defined as a large amount in the research, while the minimal end was set at below 249 mg of glycyrrhizin. It should be noted that 250 g of liquorice corresponds to 500 mg of glycyrrhizin, on average.
Test for Thinking Skills
The researchers based out of University of Helsinki found a correlation between the young mothers who had consumed large amounts of liquorice at the time of their pregnancy and their child’s performance in cognitive reasoning tests compared to the children of mothers who had not consumed liquorice. A difference of as many as 7 points was observed on the IQ test.
Additionally, those children who were exposed to more consumption of liquorice by their mothers had memory difficulties and performed poorly compared to their peers.
It was also observed that individuals in this group were more prone to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, than those in the other groups.
Young girls whose mothers had consumed large amounts of liquorice faced difficulties in later stages of their life as they tended to reach puberty faster than their peers. The young girls were also found to be taller and have a higher BMI(Body Mass Index), than their peers.
Researchers have highlighted the importance of informing the public regarding the harmful effects of products that contain glycyrrhizin. Women who are in the earlier stages of pregnancy, or those who are planning to have children in the future, need to be fully aware of the harmful effects that liquorice may have on their foetus.
A Possible Explanation
Earlier experiments that were conducted on animals give a clear picture regarding the effects of biological mechanisms and the after-effects of liquorice. The use of Glycyrrhizin increases the effects on stress hormones as they interfere with compounds in the body that help keep the cortisol level in check.
Although Cortisol plays an important role in fetus development, it is harmful in large amounts.
In Finland, health advisors have issued a warning and put liquorice in the “Not Recommended” category for women who are pregnant. However, some argue occasional use of liquorice is not dangerous.
In the UK, there are no guidelines that warn women of the harmful effects of liquorice, though authorities warn the public to avoid herbal remedies, as they contain higher levels of Glycyrrhizin.