Sugary diet during pregnancies affects girls but not boys
Little girls may be said to be made of sugar and spice and all things nice – but they are more affected than boys by their mother's sweet tooth when they are in the womb.
A study found that too much sugar in pregnancy can harm the nutrients reaching unborn female foetuses.
But unborn sons, made of 'slugs, snails and puppy dogs' tails', are unaffected, the team found.
Tests on other mammals showed sugar intake had different effects on their unborn male and female offspring.
Female foetuses of rats given the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of fructose solution – a natural sugar found in honey, fruit and some vegetables – a day, were found to have smaller placentas than those on a low sugar diet.
This suggests that the sugar blocks nutrients, said researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
The findings, published in Endocrinology journal, also noted higher fructose and blood glucose levels in the female foetuses of fructose-fed rats were higher than their male counterparts, or any of the rat foetuses given only water.
The study author Dr Mark Vickers is currently conducting a follow-up study.
He claimed the findings highlighted the effects of a "marked increase" in sugar consumption by pregnant women.
He said: "There has been a marked increase in the consumption of fructose-sweetened beverages and foods, particularly among women of reproductive age.
"This is the first time that it has been suggested that female and male foetuses react differently to maternal fructose consumption, and that these sex-specific changes may be associated in changes in placental development."