One cup of coffee can harm unborn children, say researchers

One cup of coffee can harm unborn children, say researchers

One cup of coffee can harm unborn children, say researchers

The overall effect was small - an average of an extra pound by age 8.

As an observational study, the researchers can not confirm causality, however, they did point out that the sample size was large, and the findings do support the existing advice to limit caffeine intake while pregnant. She is from the department of environmental exposure and epidemiology at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo.

"Although, the research conducted suggests less than 200 mg a day is safe for consumption, it's always better to be safe and avoid caffeine completely".

Existing guidelines in Australia and New Zealand recommend limiting caffeine intake while pregnant, but the Norwegian researchers are telling mothers to go cold turkey.

Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed central nervous system stimulant.

"Our study does not have the right design to draw conclusions on a safe threshold of caffeine intake during pregnancy", Papadopoulou said.

"The evidence provided in the study for a causal effect is extremely weak and the statement from the authors that "complete avoidance might actually be advisable" seems unjustified, particularly when we consider the effects that such a restriction might have on wellbeing of mothers". High caffeine consumption was linked to a 30 percent higher risk, the researchers found.

Although the study is the largest on the association of prenatal caffeine exposure and childhood growth parameters, the researchers wrote that "our findings might be explained by residual confounding of non-accounted factors related to an overall unhealthy lifestyle and high caffeine consumption; though exclusion of smokers and very high caffeine consumers did not modify the results". Very high caffeine exposures were associated with higher weight gain velocity from infancy to age eight years.

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Very high levels of caffeine consumption during pregnancy were linked with less than a pound of excess weight up to age 5, but slightly over a pound by age 8, the researchers reported.

In its nutritional advice for pregnant women, the HSE advises that women do not consume more than 200mg of caffeine a day (the equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee) as high levels can result in babies having "a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life".

Sources of caffeine included coffee, black tea, caffeinated soft drinks, chocolate, chocolate milk, sandwich spreads; and desserts, cakes, and candies.

Children exposed to very high levels of caffeine before birth also weighed 67-83 g more at 3-12 months, 110-136 g more as toddlers, 213-320 g more at 3-5 years, and 480 g more at the age of 8, than children who had been exposed to low levels. The researchers divided the intake into low (less than 49 mg), average (50-199), high (200-299), and very high (more than 300).

"Severe side effects have been observed among patients consuming high dose of caffeine through energy drinks". Paternal median caffeine intake was 193 mg per day, with caffeine from coffee cited as the main contributor, according to researchers.

"My guess is that if they did the same study with black coffee, where sugar had been eliminated, the results would not be the same", Roslin said. The findings were published this week in the journal BMJ open.

During pregnancy, elimination of caffeine is prolonged, rapidly passing all biological membranes, including the blood-brain and placenta barriers, exposing the foetus.

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