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Pregnant? Skip the Licorice, Say Experts

The list of things to avoid when you’re pregnant just always seems to be getting longer, doesn’t it? And now it looks like we’ll be adding licorice to the list.

A study by the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that eating licorice during pregnancy can affect the cognitive abilities of the child. They studied just over a thousand mothers and their healthy babies born in Finland. At age 13, the children (whose mothers ate the most licorice while pregnant) “averaged seven points lower on IQ tests and had triple the risk for attention deficit disorder problems.”

Licorice contains the sweetener glycyrrhizin (which comes from the root of licorice plant). So not only do you want to skip the licorice, but watch out for this natural sweetener in candies, teas and herbal remedies.

It’s fierce being pregnant. You were already longingly watching your non-preggo friend eat sushi, sip cocktails and throw back double espressos. Now you can’t even enjoy some licorice?! But the good news is those red Twizzlers you enjoy at the movies don’t contain glycyrrhizin. So snack away while you enjoy Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. According to a Hershey spokesperson, only the Twizzlers black licorice has a small amount of the licorice extract — you’ll see it on the ingredients list.

And if you’ve been eating licorice, don’t panic. You’ll be fine. My first pregnancy, I ate deli sandwiches every day until someone mentioned in my eighth month that it might be a good idea to avoid cold cuts. Cue panic. I was fine. My baby was fine. You’ll be fine. (It was worth repeating.) 

Keep in mind (if you’ve been eating licorice) that in the study, the women whose children suffered from cognitive issues ate 100 grams of pure licorice daily. That’s a lot.

Meanwhile, however, put down the licorice and wait a little while. Pretty soon, you will have an adorable baby and all the licorice you can eat.

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