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Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Liquorice eaters have babies earlier
Liquorice wheels
Eating liquorice could mean earlier births for pregnant women
Pregnant women who eat large amounts of liquorice could be at greater risk of having their babies prematurely, warn scientists.

Finnish researchers found that women who ate at least 2.5 packets of black liquorice sweets, containing 100 grams each, per week were twice as likely to deliver before 38 weeks.

They found the liquorice eaters were likely to deliver about 2.5 days earlier than those who ate little or none of the sweets.

Lead author Dr Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, said the liquorice, popular with Finnish pregnant women, was thought to speed delivery.

It is thought to stimulate the production of a hormone prostaglandin, which can induce labour.

Many pregnant women love liquorice candies, mainly the black ones

Dr Timo Strandberg

"Many pregnant women love liquorice candies, mainly the black ones."

"The finding of liquorice and pre-term delivery makes biological sense, because liquorice may also boost prostaglandin production and thus hasten delivery.

"But we do not have any experimental evidence on that."

Dr Strandberg said they had asked 1,049 women to take part in the study, which quizzed them about their consumption of glycyrrhizin - the primary chemical component of black liquorice sweets.

Pregnant woman
Liquorice eaters had their babies 2.5 days earlier

The researchers also collected information on the birth weight of the babies, the delivery date and the due date.

The study was initially initiated to see whether the liquorice had any effect on the birth weight of babies.

Dr Strandberg said: "Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not detect any significant effect of maternal liquorice intake upon birthweight, but instead found a significant association of shorter gestational age with heavy intake of liquorice."

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