Your candy habit might be harming your baby—a new study indicates that this popular candy should be added to the "avoid while pregnant" list.
If your pregnancy cravings commonly include chewy candy, you'll want to read this: A new study indicates that pregnant women should avoid consuming large amounts of black licorice. The reason? The study links excess fetal exposure to a component in licorice to cognitive issues in children. (BTW, if you only like the red kind—like Twizzlers and Red Vines—you're A-OK!)
The amount of licorice that is safe for pregnant women to consume hasn't been identified at this point—in light of that, it might be a good idea to just avoid the stuff (hey, if you can go without sushi and wine, how hard could nixing licorice be?)
Researchers from the University of Helsinki compared 378 children of mothers who had consumed large amounts of licorice during pregnancy to come to this finding. According to their research, exposure to a large amount of licorice in the womb correlated with lower cognitive test scores and impaired performance on tests measuring memory capacity. These children also showed more ADHD-like issues than their peers, and girls with this prenatal exposure appeared to hit puberty before their peers.
This isn't the first time licorice has been called out for its possibly harmful effects on pregnant women. Glycyrrhizin, an ingredient in licorice, has been previously linked to high blood pressure and shorter pregnancies, according to the study's authors.
These findings were published in American Journal of Epidemiology and suggest that pregnant women should be warned about the possibly harmful effects of licorice during doctor's visits. Women in Finland are reportedly already made aware of this—the country's National Institute for Health and Welfare lists licorice as "not recommended" for pregnant women in their published guidelines, according to the study's release.
"It is important to understand that a phenomenon discovered among a group of 378 youths does not necessarily explain the characteristics detected in the development of a single individual," Eero Kajantie, research manager at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, said in a release for the study. If you're pregnant and have been enjoying licorice candy, don't panic. For one thing, the study refers to large consumption—and while there's no way to pinpoint a safe amount, we'd wager that you probably haven't done any damage by enjoying the occasional candy fix.