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The Mid-Pregnancy Habit You Should Probably Try to Kick

Photograph by Twenty20

Pregnant mothers have one thing in common: zero energy. Which is why a lot of us reach for a syrupy, fizzy, caffeine-rich soda to get through the day. (Is there anything more exciting than the sound of a soda cracking open?)

Sure, it's no secret that sugary drinks are hard on our bodies. They are filled with calories and are a primary cause of obesity amongst children and adults in America.

And now we know that they're also bad for embryos and fetuses. Really.

A new study, published in Pediatrics, found that sugary beverages during pregnancy are linked to weight gain for kids later in life. The findings are part of a larger scope that examines the impact of pregnant moms’ diets on their kids’ health.

“We know that what mothers eat during pregnancy may affect their children’s health and later obesity,” says biostatistician Sheryl Rifas-Shiman of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston. “We decided to look at sugar-sweetened beverages as one of these factors.”

And here's what they found: The more sugary beverages a mom drank during mid-pregnancy, the heavier her kids were in elementary school.

Awesome. We can’t enjoy a glass of wine over dinner. We can’t climb Mount Everest. And now, we can't chug a cold Dr. Pepper Big Gulp.

As part of the study, moms were asked to complete a questionnaire during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. The survey took into account what they were drinking—soda, fruit drinks, 100 percent fruit juice, diet soda or water—and how often. Serving size was defined as a can, glass or bottle of a beverage.

When the children were in elementary school, researchers revisited them to assess their body mass index and measure for obesity. Compared with those children whose mothers consumed less sugary drinks, boys and girls of sugar lovin’ moms weighed about half a pound more by the time they were in the third grade.

Of the 1,078 kids involved in the study, 25 percent—those with moms who drank at least two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day during the second trimester—were considered overweight or obese based on their BMI.

How is it even possible to have such a profound effect?

“What happens in early development really has a long-term impact,” Meghan Azad, an epidemiologist at the University of Manitoba in Canada, said. "A fetus’s metabolism develops in response to the surrounding environment, including the maternal diet."

However, scientists aren't 100 percent certain if moms' soda addiction is a direct cause of weight gain for her kids later in life (suprise!). I mean, presumably she's not stopping her soda drinking after she gives birth, so is this more a lifestyle question than actual biology?

Whatever the case, it's probably not a bad idea to go ahead and limit soda intake during pregnancy and stick to drinking one of nature's finest delicacies, good ol' H2O.

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