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Fructose is a simple sugar that is found in fruits, fruit juices, honey and certain vegetables. Fructose is also mixed with glucose to make high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is used as a sweetener. Excessive intake of fructose has been found to be associated with obesity and diabetes.
A recent study established a close relationship between excessive fructose consumption during pregnancy and the risk of placental and fetal defects. The study went on to reveal that Allopurinol, a drug used in the treatment of gout and kidney stones, holds the potential of counteracting these effects.
The researchers called attention to the fact that there has been a steep rise in the use of sugar and HFCS containing products in the recent years. According to the statistics of CDC, the calorie consumption in the form of added sugars, especially HFCS, in the adult population in the United States is around 13%, which is way higher than the recommended amount of 5-10%.
High Fructose Diet Causes Larger Placentas and Smaller Fetuses
The study was carried out by Dr. Kelle H. Moley, MO, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and colleagues. The study was subsequently published in Scientific Reports. The aim of the study was to study the health impacts of high fructose diet in pregnant women.
Experiments were carried out on pregnant rats that were divided into two groups. One group was fed a high fructose diet while the other group was given standard chow. The effect of both types of diet on the mice was studied subsequently.
Higher levels of triglycerides as well as uric acid were found in the pregnant mice that fed on high fructose diet. Triglycerides are formed as a result of degradation of fructose in the liver.
The scientist discovered that the pregnant mice that were given high fructose diet had larger placentas and smaller fetuses as compared to the mice that were given standard chow. It was noted that after the birth, a small for gestational age fetus undergoes faster growth as compared to a fetus that is normal in size at the time of birth.
It was stipulated that the increase in the level of triglycerides and uric acid can also lead to other complications of pregnancy like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
Allopurinol Offsets Maternal and Fetal Impacts of High Fructose Diet
The researchers went on to study whether or not these animal findings were reflected in humans. They studied the fructose consumption of 18 pregnant women who were to undergo caesarian section. It was observed that the women who consumed fructose in high amounts faced fetal and placental effects similar to those in pregnant mice.
This discovery led to valuable preventive measure to prevent fetal and placental defects in the form of low fructose diet. Another preventive intervention that was devised on the basis of these findings was to use allopurinol. Allopurinol is the drug used in the treatment of gout and kidney stones as it lowers the level of uric acid.
When given to pregnant mice, allopurinol lowered the levels of uric acid within the placenta, reversing the adverse placental and fetal effects of high fructose diet. Fortunately, allopurinol is a drug that has been declared as safe for use during the later trimesters of pregnancy.
Adhering to low fructose diet and consuming natural foods rather than processed ones that contain HFCS is, therefore, imperative for preventing the harmful effects of high fructose diet in order to improve the maternal and fetal health.