Pregnant Women Should Avoid Licorice: Research

Pregnant Women Should Avoid Licorice: Research

Pregnant women should avoid black licorice according to a research conducted by researchers from Finland. The research team said that consumption of black licorice during pregnancy can impact development of child’s brain. The research team found that pregnant women who consumed black licorice gave birth to children with lower IQ compared to children born to women who didn’t eat licorice during pregnancy. The research with details of Finnish team’s findings has been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The research team also noticed that girls born to women who ate licorice during pregnancy, reached puberty earlier compared to girls born to women who didn’t consume licorice when they were pregnant. Licorice contains a chemical glycyrrhizin, which could impact development of brain of child.

As per the US FDA and World Health Organization, consumption of licorice or glycyrrhizin during pregnancy has no impact on development of child, the research team added. However, the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland recommended pregnant women to avoid licorice during pregnancy, as per guidelines issued in 2016.

Among the study participants, 11 percent pregnant women consumed nearly 500 mg of glycyrrhizin a week (nearly 250 grams of licorice). Nearly 75 percent of women consumed no licorice or very low quantity. The study team contacted mothers who participated in the study when their kids were in age group 10-12 years. Women who consumed high amount of licorice, their children on an average had 7 IQ points lower compared to women who didn’t consume licorice when they were pregnant.

Study team added that the girls whose mothers ate high amounts of licorice during pregnancy reached puberty earlier than the girls whose mothers ate little to no licorice.

As per Live Science, “In the body, glycyrrhizin blocks the activity of an enzyme that helps protect the fetus from high levels of cortisol, which is sometimes referred to as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol may affect the neurological development of a fetus, the researchers wrote. Normally, this enzyme works by converting cortisol to its inactive form, called cortisone, before it passes through the placenta to the fetus. In an earlier lab study, the same group of researchers found that very low doses of glycyrrhizin effectively blocked this enzyme, allowing cortisol to flow through the placenta, the scientists wrote in the study.”

In addition children exposed to high levels of liquorice also showed lower tests results in tasks measuring memory capacity.

Parents also reported that these children showed more ADHD-type problems than others, and in girls puberty also started earlier and advanced further.

In Finland the National Institute for Health and Welfare already places liquorice in the 'not recommended' category for pregnant women, but states that occasional consumption of small amounts of liquorice, such as a portion of liquorice ice cream or a few liquorice sweets, poses no danger.