A segment of populations in most developed nations appear to be genetically predisposed to high blood insulin and triglyceride levels when consuming diets high in carbohydrate causing abnormal glucose tolerance. Reports now indicate that maternal fructose intake may affect a child's endocrinology and glucose tolerance.
Fructose is a simple sugar found naturally in honey, fruit and some vegetables. Diets high in dietary fructose, particularly due to calorically sweetened beverages, are now increasingly common and have been shown to be detrimental to the regulation of energy intake and body adiposity. With the increasing prevalence of maternal obesity and its association with gestational diabetes, there has been growing interest in maternal nutrition on the risk of childhood and adult disease in the offspring.
"There has been a marked increase in the consumption of fructose-sweetened beverages and foods, particularly among women of reproductive age," said Mark Vickers PhD, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and lead author of a recent study showing that
female and male fetuses react differently to maternal fructose consumption, and that these sex-specific changes may be associated in changes in placental development.
"Further studies are now critical to establish the long-term effects of maternal fructose intake on the health and well-being of offspring and whether this study's observed sex differences elicit different risk profiles for metabolic disease into the post-weaning period," said Deborah Sloboda, PhD, also of the University of Auckland and co-author of the study. Dr Vickers is currently conducting a follow-up study in rats.
Reiser et al. published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrion finding that subjects classified as carbohydrate sensitive had significantly greater levels of fasting insulin and glucose and an insulin response to a sucrose-fructose load after adapting to a diet high in the sugar. The study found that carbohydrate sensitive subjects (for example children who are not adapted to carbohydrate diets at a very young age) had significantly higher response levels of blood insulin and glucose compared to normal subjects.
Elevated insulin levels are important medically since they are associated with cardiovascular disease and an inducer of the rapid conversion of carbohydrate or protein to fat.
The effects of maternal fructose intake on offspring health remain largely unknown, despite the marked increase in consumption of sweetened beverages that has paralleled the obesity epidemic.
Long-term studies on larger populations are essential in both educating mothers on beneficial nutritional strategies while protecting future generations from diseases related to fructose and sucrose consumption.