New research shows that a high sugar diet is not only linked to weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, but can also impact developmental outcomes during infancy, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Previous research has shown that moms who consume sugary beverages and juices in the months after giving birth are at risk for weight gain and may also expose their newborns to these added sugars through breast milk. However, the new study reveals that consuming these beverages during the breastfeeding period may also lead to poorer cognitive development in children nearly 2 years later.

The study included 88 mothers who reported their daily consumption of sugary beverages and juices during the first month of breastfeeding. Their children were assessed using the Bayley-Ill Scales of Infant Development at 2 years of age.

Moms who reported greater consumption of sugary beverages and juices had children with poorer cognitive development scores, according to the study. Further, the researchers speculated that added sugar from the mom’s diet was passed to their infant through breast milk, with this exposure possibly interfering with brain development.

"Breastfeeding can have so many benefits, but we're seeing that breast milk is influenced by what moms eat and drink even more than we realized,” said Michael I. Goran, PhD, director for Diabetes and Obesity at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, in a press release. "Moms may not realize that what they eat and drink during breastfeeding may influence their infant's development down the road, but that's what our results indicate."

The study authors emphasized the importance of proper nutrition during the early years of childhood and how this can better prepare them to develop into healthy adults.

"Ultimately, we want babies to receive the best quality nutrition," said study author Paige K. Berger, PhD, RD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow. "Our findings may be used to guide future nutrition recommendations for moms during breastfeeding, to better ensure that babies are getting the right building blocks for cognitive development."

Consuming sugary beverages while breastfeeding affects cognitive development in children. EurekAlert! Published October 6, 2020. Accessed October 7, 2020.