Liquorice causes fertility problems
Ladies trying to get pregnant, step away from liquorice; new research has found the sweet treat can have disastrous effects on oestrogen levels, and even leave some women infertile.
Scientists from University of Illinois looked at mouse reproductive tissues, and found exposure to isoliquiritigenin (iso), a compound found in liquorice, disrupts steroid sex hormone production in the ovary.
The team concluded that high exposure to iso lowered the expression of key genes involved in hormone production, particularly expression of a gene for aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to oestrogen, which dropped by 50 per cent or more.
This is the first study to examine the effects of this chemical on the ovary, and has been published in journal Reproductive Toxicology.
“In general, when you start to have lower hormone levels, you could start to have problems with reproduction,” co-lead author Professor Jodi Flaws said. “And because estrogen is also important for healthy brains, healthy bones, a healthy cardiovascular system, if the levels are depleted for too long, you could have problems with those systems.
“We haven't shown that to be the case. That's just a possibility. I would say, though, that a 50-plus percent drop in aromatase in humans would be a serious problem for fertility and for other things.”
Other studies have previously found that iso has anti-cancer properties for some types of breast, prostate and colon cancer, but these are the same properties that cause problems for the ovary.
Whole liquorice root and purified forms of iso can be found in herbal supplements, teas, candies and as flavouring agents in tobacco products.