The comparison of sugar consumption and smoking during pregnancy is a pretty big one. But according to new research, it’s very comparable in terms of potential harm to the baby. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Michael Goran (Professor at the University of Southern California) states:
We are finding that sugar exposure can begin to affect a child even before birth. The sugars that a mother consumes while pregnant or nursing can be passed to her baby, disrupt healthy growth and development and pose risk for obesity.
Gary Taubes, author of the book “The Case Against Sugar,” says that this concept is known as “perinatal metabolic programming” or “metabolic imprinting.” He says the nutrients that the developing child receives in the womb — including the supply of glucose — pass across the placenta in proportion to the nutrient concentration in the mother’s circulation. The higher the mother’s blood sugar, the greater the supply of glucose to the fetus. The developing pancreas responds by overproducing insulin secreting cells.
Boyd Metzger, a researcher who studies diabetes and pregnancy at Northwestern University, adds:
The baby is not diabetic, but the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are stimulated to function and grow in size and number by the environment they’re in. So they start overfunctioning. That in turn leads to a baby laying down more fat, which is why the baby of a diabetic mother is typified by being a fat baby.
As bad as the term “secondhand smoking” was for Big Tobacco… I would imagine that Big Sugar doesn’t love hearing the term “secondhand sugar” too much.