Pregnant women who eat liquorice could be increasing their unborn child's risk of diseases later in life, a new study has found.
Experts London's Great Ormond Street Hospital and the University of Helsinki discovered that eight-year-olds who were exposed to liquorice in the womb had levels of the hormone cortisol up to a third higher than those whose mothers never ate it.
Cortisol helps the body deal with stress, but it is also linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
In the study, mothers were asked how much liquorice they ate in pregnancy. Their children were tested aged eight for cortisol levels.
The researchers found that those whose mothers ate half a gram a week of liquorice - less than one Liquorice Allsorts sweet - or more in pregnancy had cortisol levels a third higher than those whose mothers did not eat it.
Scientists believe the presence of the naturally occurring, very sweet ingredient glycyrrhizin in liquorice ultimately affects the mechanism which regulates hormone levels.
"For those who eat a lot of liquorice, it may be a good idea to cut down when pregnant," the Daily Mail quoted clinical scientist Alexander Jones of Great Ormond Street, one of the study's authors, as saying.