Tuesday Dec 16, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- Intake of even
a low dose of caffeine in pregnancy may damage the heart of offspring for a
lifetime, according to a new study published in the Federation of American
Societies for Experimental Biology journal (FASEB).
The animal study showed one dose of caffeine found in
just two cups of coffee ingested in pregnancy may be enough to affect fetal
heart development and reduce heart function over the entire lifespan of the
The study also found that this level of exposure was associated
with increased body fat among male mice.
In a press release, the organization said although the
study was conducted in mice, the biological case and effect described in the
report is plausible in humans.
"Our studies raise potential concerns about caffeine
exposure during very early pregnancy, but further studies are necessary to
evaluate caffeine's safety during pregnancy," said Scott Rivkees, Yale's
Associate Chair of Pediatric Research and a senior researcher on the study.
In the study, Rivkees tested two groups of pregnant mice
in a room with normal level of oxygen and another two groups in a room with
only half of the normal level of oxygen for 48 hours.
In each setting, one group received caffeine ingestion
and another group saline solution as a placebo.
Under both circumstances, mice given caffeine produced
embryos with a thinner layer of tissue separating some of the heart's chambers
than the group receiving the placebo.
The researchers found all adult males exposed to caffeine
as fetuses increased body fat about 20 percent and decreased cardiac function
about 35 percent compared to mice not exposed to caffeine.
"Caffeine is everywhere: in what we drink, in what
we eat, in pills that we use to relieve pain, and even in candy," said
Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This report
shows that despite popular notions of safety, there's one place it probably
shouldn't be: in the diet of an expectant mother."
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