12 Feb 2011

Too much natural sugar 'might be harmful to fetus'

3:45 pm on 12 February 2011

New research suggests that excessive consumption of a type of sugar found in fruit, honey and many processed foods may be damaging to fetuses.

Scientists studying pregnant rats at Auckland University's Liggins Institute have found a link between eating too much fructose and impaired fetal development.

Fructose is a type of sugar that has been linked to obesity. Found naturally in fruit and honey, it's often used as a sweetener in refined foods such as soft drinks, cakes and lollies.

The researchers found that pregnant and lactating rats fed a diet high in fructose had offspring with higher levels of metabolic hormones, which affect the way the body breaks down food.

Researcher Deborah Sloboda says a further study is under way into the long-term effects of a high-fructose diet and whether problems found at birth persist into adulthood - but what's really needed now, she says, is a study using humans.

A spokesperson for the Maternity Services Consumer Council, Brenda Hinton, says the message is still the same for pregnant women: eat all types of food in moderation and certainly limit the intake of fructose.