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Add This Candy to the List of Foods to Avoid While Pregnant

Craving candy during pregnancy? Read why moms-to-be should consider avoiding this particular sweet treat.
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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated February 17, 2023
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Of all the candy out there, licorice’s popularity can be particularly controversial, but whether you love it or hate it, you definitely want to avoid it during pregnancy.

A 2017 study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that licorice contains an ingredient that’s linked to lower IQ in children years after birth.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki, the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital districts teamed up to analyze 378 13-year-olds whose mothers had monitored licorice consumption during pregnancy. Their findings revealed that kids who were exposed to large amounts of licorice in utero performed poorer on cognitive reasoning tests, demonstrating a lower IQ of about seven points. Parents of these children also reported more ADHD-type issues and earlier puberty for girls.

The risk is associated with an ingredient found in licorice called glycyrrhizin—and this isn’t the first time it’s been of concern for babies. In fact, higher blood pressure and preterm delivery are known effects, as one 2019 study also found. But this is the first study to look at long-term effects on a fetus.

Licorice is incredibly popular in Nordic countries. However, Finland, where the study took place, listed it as a food to avoid for pregnant women back in 2016, before the study was published.

If you love licorice, know two things before you panic:

  1. The risk is associated with large amounts of licorice consumption, which for the study was identified as 250 grams (just about a cup) of licorice per week. This correlates with 500 mg of glycyrrhizin, the ingredient of concern.
  2. If you’re worried about Twizzlers, they don’t contain glycyrrhizin. (They’re really not licorice at all.) Black Licorice Twizzlers Twists contain the similar-sounding glycerin, but that is not the same thing.

If you are craving licorice, researchers emphasize that it is certainly safe in moderation. But if you’re looking for healthier alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth, get some expert advice here.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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