Monday November 3, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- Women drinking
coffee or tea during pregnancy have higher risk of having a low birth weight baby,
according to a study scheduled to appear in the British Medical Journal this
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK now warns
pregnant women should cut their caffeine intake and drink no more than two cups
of coffee or two cups of tea a day, BBC reported.
The recommended level of caffeine intake was lowered to a
maximum of 200 mg a day from the early recommended intake of 300 mg per day.
The new recommendation came after researchers at
Leicester and Leeds universities found an association between caffeine intake and
low birth weight.
Low birth weight often comes with a range of
complications such as heart disease and diabetes.
But the government does not seem to discourage pregnant
women drinking coffee.
"I want to reassure women that if you're pregnant
and have been following the previous advice, the risk is likely to be small,'
Andrew Wadge, FSA chief scientist, was quoted by BBC as saying.
A health observer suggests that pregnant women should
completely avoid drinking coffee or tea because caffeine can only bring risks
to the fetus while providing no nutrition value.
The American Dietetic Association suggests that pregnant
women avoid caffeine citing findings from studies linking caffeine consumption
to miscarriage and low-birth weight babies.
Consuming small amounts of caffeine when pregnant may affect the growth of an unborn child
Research paper: Human maternal caffeine intake
during pregnancy and the risk of fetal growth restriction: Large
Consuming caffeine at any time during
pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of fetal growth
restriction (low birth weight), according to research published on bmj.com today.
some previous studies have also shown this, this BMJ study additionally
shows that any amount and type of caffeine intake—from tea, cola,
chocolate, cocoa, and some prescription drugs, as well as coffee—is
linked with relatively slower fetal growth.
Dr Justin Konje
and colleagues from the University of Leicester as well as
collaborators from the University of Leeds, examined the association of
maternal caffeine intake and individual caffeine metabolism on birth
From two large teaching hospitals in the UK between
September 2003 and June 2006 the authors recruited 2645 low risk
pregnant women of average age 30, who were between 8-12 weeks pregnant.
They used a caffeine assessment tool (CAT) to record caffeine intake
from all possible dietary sources in the four weeks before and
throughout pregnancy, and also used a saliva sample test to calculate
individual caffeine metabolism.
The researchers report that
the average caffeine intake during pregnancy was 159mg/day, much lower
than the limit of 300mg/day recommended by the UK government's Food
Standards Agency. Interestingly, 62% of the caffeine use reported came
from tea. Other sources were coffee (14%), cola (12%), chocolate (8%),
and soft drinks (2%).
Most of the babies were born at full
term, with an average birth weight of 3450g (which is around the UK
average), while 4% were born prematurely, 0.3% were stillborn, and 0.7%
were miscarried late. Overall, the results confirmed that these were
low risk pregnancies. However, the authors found a 'dose-response
relationship', showing that increasing caffeine intake was associated
with increasing risk of fetal growth restriction (FGR).
to pregnant women consuming less than 100mg/day (the equivalent of less
than one cup of coffee), the risk estimates of having a lower birth
weight baby increased by 20% for intakes of 100-199mg/day, by 50% for
those taking between 200-299mg/day, and by 40% for over 300mg/day.
was no level of caffeine intake at which the increased risk of FGR
stopped increasing during pregnancy. Caffeine consumption of more than
100mg/day, the equivalent of one cup of coffee, was associated with a
reduction in birth weight of 34-59g in the first, 24-74g in the second,
and about 66-89g in the third trimesters. This effect was significant
and consistent across all trimesters with consumption of over
200mg/day. The authors also noted that the link between caffeine and
FGR was stronger in women who metabolised caffeine more quickly.
authors explain that, although these reductions in birth weight may
seem small given that the average birth weight is over 3kg, a drop of
60-70 g might be important for a baby that was already small and at
risk. Pregnant women should make every effort to significantly reduce
their caffeine consumption before and during pregnancy, they warn.
light of this evidence, the UK Government's Food Standards Agency are
altering their guidance on the recommended daily limit of caffeine
consumption and reducing it from 300mg to 200mg.
findings will reinforce the concern that caffeine is a potential
fetotoxic substance, say Professor Jørn Olsen and Professor Bodil
Hammer Bech, in an accompanying editorial. But the advice offered by
the authors could unnecessarily frighten women who have consumed some
caffeine during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should reduce
their intake of caffeine, but must not replace it with unhealthy
alternatives such as alcoholic drinks or soft drinks full of sugar,
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