In a new Finnish study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that consuming licorice during pregnancy could have negative effects on a child’s cognitive development. The study looked at 378 children (10-12 years old), and found that children whose mothers consumed more licorice during pregnancy performed worse on mental tasks involving memory capacity, and showed increased signs of ADHD-like symptoms. Most alarmingly, children who’s mothers consumed more licorice also seemed to have lower IQ‘s.
Other research in the field has found that glycyrrhizin inhibits cortisol (a stress hormone) protection in the womb. High levels of cortisol have been associated with decreased neurological development in the fetus.
The researchers calculated how much glycyrrhizin each woman consumed over the course of her pregnancy. Low levels of glycyrrhizin consumption amounted to less than 250 mg a day, while high levels were considered at 500 mg a day (equal to 250 grams of licorice). Children who were born to mothers who consumed high levels of licorce had a 7 points lower IQ, on average, and were 3 times as likely to have ADHD.
While the results showed that high consumption of licorice during pregnancy is harmful, the researchers could not specify a cut-off point, or whether or not pregnant women should avoid consuming it at all.