You’re avoiding fish. You’re avoiding alcohol. You’re even avoiding your morning coffee, which has made you an absolute monster every morning. Did you know though, that you should probably avoid licorice, too? A recent study shows that licorice, the same kind found in Twizzlers and other candies, contains a natural component that is dangerous during pregnancy. Few women know about this recommended diet restriction, and it might be because licorice is not very common in the Unite States. The study was conducted in Edinburgh and Helsinki, where the consumption of licorice is much more common. In those countries, they eat as much licorice as we eat chocolate in the United States. However, you should learn why licorice might be dangerous during your pregnancy.

Natural licorice contains a component called glycyrrhizin, which can impair the placenta and allow stress hormones call glucocorticoids to enter the baby’s system. This sounds like scientific jargon, but what you need to know is this—licorice decreases the strength of the placenta allowing harmful hormones into your baby’s system during fetal development. These hormones can impair vocabulary, spatial, and memory functions later in life by interfering with the development of your baby’s brain. Since the placenta should act as a barrier against harmful hormones, the compounds in licorice work against the natural protective processes of your pregnancy.

Additionally, women who consumed high levels of licorice per week had babies who were less intelligent. Many of these babies also had behavioral problems. Eating large amounts of licorice during your pregnancy could negatively affect your baby’s IQ.

Luckily, you would need a lot of licorice for your baby’s cognitive development to be affected. In the study, women who ate 100 grams of pure licorice daily suffered from the negative effects. If you’re a huge fan of the candy, you should certainly consider cutting down.

As with most pregnancy advice, practice moderation. You should avoid stuffing yourself with licorice, but you don’t need to rush to your doctor if you had a bag of Twizzlers at the movie theater last week. It’s more important that you focus on avoiding the more harmful chemicals during pregnancy such as alcohol and caffeine. Even a small amount of alcohol during your pregnancy can cause serious and lifelong birth defects. If you’re a licorice addict and you’ve been chowing down during pregnancy, you should give it a rest until baby is born.

Source: Kari Raikkonen et al: Maternal Licorice Consumption and Detrimental Cognitive and Psychiatric Outcomes in Children. American Journal of Epidemiology Volume 170 Issue 9 pp. 1137-1146 2009