Maternal licorice consumption during pregnancy and pubertal, cognitive and psychiatric outcomes in children

Katri Raikkonen, Silja Martikainen, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, Jari Lahti, Kati Heinonen, Riikka Pyhala, Marius Lahti, Soile Tuovinen, Karoliina Wehkalampi, Sara Sammallahti, Liisa Kuula, Sture Andersson, Johan Eriksson, Alfredo Ortega-Alonso, Rebecca Reynolds, Timo Strandberg, Jonathan Seckl, Eero Kajantie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Earlier puberty, especially in girls, associates with physical and mental disorders. Prenatal exposure to glucocorticoids influences the timing of puberty in animal models, but any human relevance is unknown. We studied if voluntary consumption by pregnant women of licorice, which contains glycyrrhizin, a potent inhibitor of placental 11β-HSD2, the ‘barrier’ to maternal glucocorticoids, associated with pubertal maturation markers (height-,weight-,body-mass-index-for-age, current height-for-age difference from expected adult height, Tanner Staging questionnaire, Pubertal Development Scale), neuroendocrine function (diurnal salivary cortisol, dexamethasone suppression), cognition (neuropsychological tests) and psychiatric problems (Child Behavior Checklist) in adolescent offspring (M=12.5, SD=0.4 years, n=378) born in 1998 in Helsinki, Finland. Girls exposed to high maternal glycyrrhizin (≥500 mg/week) had higher height- (mean difference 0.4 SD, 95%CI 0.1,0.8), weight- (0.6 SD, 0.2,1.9) and body-mass-index-for-age (0.6 SD, 0.2,0.9), were 0.5 SDs (0.2,0.8) closer to adult height, reported more advanced pubic hair, breast and pubertal developmental stage (P<0.04), and girls and boys exposed to high maternal glycyrrhizin scored 7 (3.1,11.2) IQ points lower, had poorer memory (P<0.04), and 3.3-fold (1.4,7.7) odds for ADHD problems than those exposed to zero-low glycyrrhizin (0-249 mg/week). No differences in cortisol were found. Licorice consumption during pregnancy may be associated with harmful effects on the developing offspring.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal licorice consumption during pregnancy and pubertal, cognitive and psychiatric outcomes in children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this