According to a new study, women who eat large amounts of licorice while they are pregnant may be hurting their baby's chances of getting into Harvard later in life. The effect of the licorice on the unborn fetus seems to be a reduction in overall IQ level.

The study involved 8 year old children who were born to mothers fond of licorice. The children, when studied in comparison with children born to mothers who did not eat licorice, scored lower on cognitive tests than their peers. The cognitive tests included vocabulary, spatial awareness and memory.

In addition to the lowered IQ rating, the children were also more likely to suffer from disruptive behavior and difficulty paying attention, including instances of ADHD. Behavioral tests were not performed, with information being collected via questionnaire.

Glycyrrhizin is found in licorice. This element found in licorice is thought to pass thought to hinder the placenta's ability to keep stress away from baby. With the placenta impaired, the stress can affect neurological development.

A total of 321 children were included in the study. Of these children, 64 were born to mothers consuming large amounts of licorice, 46 to mothers consuming moderate amounts and 211 to mothers consuming lower amounts. Just 100 grams of licorice a day can equal 500 mg of glycyrrhizin consumption.

The study was linked to another research group who found a link between licorice consumption and earlier births. Cardiac disorders, behavioral disorders and metabolic disorders have also been linked to mothers consuming licorice during pregnancy. The study was held in Finland where young mothers have a tendency to consume licorice on a daily basis while pregnant.

"Expectant mothers should avoid eating excessive amounts of licorice," offers Katri Raikkonen, professor at the University of Helsinki.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology - October 2009