Children whose mothers eat excessive amounts of liquorice during pregnancy may be more likely to perform poorly in tests and have behavioural problems, according to new research.
Writing in the American Journal of Epidemiology, scientists at the University of Helsinki and the University of Edinburgh raised serious concerns about liquorice consumption among pregnant women.
These children were also more likely to have poor attention spans and suffer from disruptive behaviour problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Researchers said a component in liquorice called glycyrrhizin might be to blame. They said the chemical might impair the placenta, allowing stress hormones to cross from the mother to the baby.
High levels of such hormones, known as glucocorticoids, are thought to affect fetal brain development and have been linked to behavioural disorders in children, according to the scientists.
Of the children who took part in the study, 64 were exposed to such high levels of glycyrrhizin in liquorice, 46 to moderate levels and 211 to low levels.
The advice is not to totally avoid liquorice, but it certainly should not be something taken in excess during pregnancy.