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Another reason to cut back on soda and highly processed foods. Research in mice and women showed that a high-fructose diet during pregnancy may cause defects in the placenta and restrict fetal growth. But the advice in the article was disturbing - rather than giving a drug (allopurinol) to pregnant women with high fructose levels (which is what the researchers suggest), why not focus on giving them nutrition advice and strongly encourage them to avoid or cut back on high fructose products? Especially foods containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), such as soda and highly processed desserts.

Nutrition and why it's important should be discussed extensively with pregnant women, starting with the first prenatal care visit. Good advice is to read food labels and avoid products that list fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, or corn syrup solids. One easy first step would be to stop drinking soda and sweet drinks and juices. The researchers admit: "One of the best ways to ensure healthy maternal and fetal outcomes is by eating natural foods." Natural foods and good nutrition, not drugs, should be the focus. From Science Daily:

High-fructose diet during pregnancy may harm placenta, restrict fetal growth

Consuming a high-fructose diet during pregnancy may cause defects in the placenta and restrict fetal growth, potentially increasing a baby's risk for metabolic health problems later in life, according to research in mice and people by a team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

However, giving the mice allopurinol, a generic drug frequently prescribed to treat gout and kidney stones, appears to mitigate the negative maternal and fetal effects. The findings suggest it may be possible to devise a prenatal screening test and treatment plan for pregnant women with high fructose levels. The study is available online in Scientific Reports, a journal affiliated with Nature Publishing Group.

Fructose, a sugar occurring naturally in fruits and honey, has been popular for decades among food manufacturers who process it into high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten food and beverages. In fact, researchers have reported that the refined sugar accounts for more than half of all sweeteners used in the U.S. food-supply chain. And in recent years, there's growing concern that fructose in processed foods and sugary drinks may be linked to diabetes and obesity. "Since the early 1970s, we've been eating more fructose than we should," said Kelle H. Moley, MD,.....This study shows potentially negative effects of a high-fructose diet during pregnancy.

Fructose is processed differently than other sugars such as glucose, which the body converts into energy. Instead, fructose is broken down by liver cells that turn the sugar into a form of fat known as triglycerides while also driving high levels of uric acid, a normal waste product found in urine and stool. Too much uric acid can create metabolic mayhem resulting in obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health conditions.

Studying mice, the researchers found elevated uric acid and triglycerides in otherwise healthy mice who were fed a high-fructose diet during pregnancy. Additionally, the mice developed smaller fetuses and larger placentas than those fed standard rodent chow.

Maternal health also may suffer. Metabolic problems caused by high levels of uric acid and fat increase a woman's risk of developing pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia -- a potentially serious condition in pregnancy often marked by high blood pressure, swelling and high protein levels in the urine -- and gestational diabetes, Moley said.

To assess the relevance of the mouse data in pregnant women, the researchers examined the association between fructose and placental uric acid levels in a small controlled group of 18 women who underwent scheduled cesarean sections. The women had no disorders that would have caused elevated uric acid. "We found a correlation suggesting similar maternal and fetal effects occur in humans," Moley said.

 This study showed that children reducing sugar consumption (but not fruits), and without reducing calories, after 10 days improved all sorts of metabolic health markers: blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, liver function, fasting blood glucose, and insulin levels. As one of the researchers said: "I have never seen results as striking or significant in our human studies; after only nine days of fructose (sugar) restriction, the results are dramatic and consistent from subject to subject." Once again, not all calories are the same.

On average, the obese children in this study had been getting about 27 percent of their daily calories from sugar, and during the study period it was lowered to about 10 percent of daily calories. By comparison, the average American takes in about 15 percent, though children typically consume much more than this in part because they have the highest intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. In February of this year, the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that Americans limit their intake of added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. From Medical Xpress:

Obese children's health rapidly improves with sugar reduction unrelated to calories

Reducing consumption of added sugar, even without reducing calories or losing weight, has the power to reverse a cluster of chronic metabolic diseases, including high cholesterol and blood pressure, in children in as little as 10 days, according to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco and Touro University California.

"This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it's sugar," said lead author Robert Lustig, MD, MSL, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco. "This internally controlled intervention study is a solid indication that sugar contributes to metabolic syndrome, and is the strongest evidence to date that the negative effects of sugar are not because of calories or obesity."

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions—increased blood pressure, high blood glucose level, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels—that occur together and increase risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Other diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, now occur in children—disorders previously unknown in the pediatric population.

In the study, 43 children between the ages of 9 and 18 who were obese and had at least one other chronic metabolic disorder, such as hypertension, high triglyceride levels or a marker of fatty liver, were given nine days of food, including all snacks and beverages, that restricted sugar but substituted starch to maintain the same fat, protein, carbohydrate, and calorie levels as their previously reported home diets.....The study menu restricted added sugar (while allowing fruit), but substituted it by adding other carbohydrates such as bagels, cereal and pasta so that the children still consumed the same number of calories from carbohydrate as before, but total dietary sugar was reduced from 28 to 10 percent, and fructose from 12 to 4 percent of total calories, respectively. The food choices were designed to be "kid food" - turkey hot dogs, potato chips, and pizza all purchased at local supermarkets, instead of high sugar cereals, pastries, and sweetened yogurt.

Children were given a scale and told to weigh themselves everyday, with the goal of weight stability, not weight loss. When weight loss did occur (a decrease of an average of 1 percent over the 10-day period but without change in body fat), they were given more of the low-sugar foods."When we took the sugar out, the kids started responding to their satiety cues," said Schwarz. "They told us it felt like so much more food, even though they were consuming the same number of calories as before, just with significantly less sugar. Some said we were overwhelming them with food."

After just 9 days on the sugar-restricted diet, virtually every aspect of the participants' metabolic health improved, without change in weight. Diastolic blood pressure decreased by 5mm, triglycerides by 33 points, LDL-cholesterol (known as the "bad" cholesterol) by 10 points, and liver function tests improved. Fasting blood glucose went down by 5 points, and insulin levels were cut by one-third. "All of the surrogate measures of metabolic health got better, just by substituting starch for sugar in their processed food—all without changing calories or weight or exercise," said Lustig. "This study demonstrates that 'a calorie is not a calorie.' Where those calories come from determines where in the body they go. Sugar calories are the worst, because they turn to fat in the liver, driving insulin resistance, and driving risk for diabetes, heart, and liver disease."