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Eating licorice during pregnancy could raise risk of ADHD

Eating licorice during pregnancy could raise risk of ADHD

20 March | 0 Comments | By Rachael

It is a common phenomenon that women crave certain types of food during pregnancy. Researchers have attributed this to changes in hormonal activity that excites the senses of smell and taste, causing women to crave for certain food items, particularly the sweet and savory types.

However, pica (symbolizing the magpie bird that eats anything) craving or the craving for non-nutritional food items during pregnancy may be harmful to the mother and the baby as it might interfere with the natural nutritional absorption of their bodies causing deficiency. Pica cravings include cigarette ashes, mothballs, plaster, toothpaste, charcoal, etc. 

The consumption of certain food types in large amounts during pregnancy has raised a lot of concerns and studies have been conducted to determine the effects of such food items on both the mother and the baby. One such food item is licorice, which is connected to lower IQ, memory and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children of mothers who consume large amounts during pregnancy.

Why eating certain types of food during pregnancy is a risk?

The researchers from the University of Helsinki conducted a study that got published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on February 3, 2017, highlighted that the offspring of women who had consumed large amounts of licorice (500mg) during pregnancy scored lower on cognitive reasoning tests and had higher presence of ADHD compared with children whose mothers consumed little or no licorice (249mg). The researchers also found that girls of mother with higher consumption had a likelihood of reaching puberty early.

The study stated that licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that may have detrimental effects on the development of the fetus causing abnormal heart rhythm, high blood pressure, heart failure and lethargy, which may prove fatal for the expecting mother and her baby. It is also linked to behavioral disorders in children.

In Finland, licorice has been placed under the ‘not recommended’ food item for pregnant women since January 2016 by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, although small amounts of licorice ice cream or sweets can be occasionally consumed.

 ADHD: Symptoms and risk factors

ADHD is a mental illness that is associated with impulsive behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it can be caused due to genetic or environmental factors. Although, the symptoms surface in childhood, they can continue through adulthood.  The two main symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Inability to focus on a certain activity for a longer span of time. The individual struggles to follow through instruction and drifts off in the middle of conversations, lectures, classes, etc.
  • Hyperactivity characterized by the inability to stay still. Individuals with this disorder feel the need to be in constant motion, giving out signals of being fidgety and squirmy. They have a tendency to interrupt others and are prone to blurting out answers even before questions are completed.

The greater risk is when it gets difficult to diagnose ADHD in children as the symptoms may be mistaken for misbehavior due to lack of discipline or mood fluctuations.

Early diagnosis is key to recovery

If you know someone who embodies signs of ADHD, contact professional health practitioners who can provide support and guidance. ADHD severely affects the functioning and cognitive abilities of an individual and can be treated with a combination of treatments. The Arizona Mental Health Helpline experts can suggest mental health treatment centers in Arizona that best suit the needs of those suffering. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 606-7791 to or chat with our medical representatives to avail the facilities of one of the best mental health disorder treatment centers in Arizona.