Caffeine intake linked with low birth weight

Consuming caffeine at any time during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of fetal growth restriction (low birth weight), according to research.

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The BMJ study also 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 weight.

From two large teaching hospitals in the UK between September 2003 and June 2006 the authors recruited 2,645 low-risk pregnant women of average age 30 who were between 8-12 weeks pregnant.

They recorded caffeine intake from all possible dietary sources in the 4 weeks before and throughout pregnancy, and also used a saliva sample test to calculate individual caffeine metabolism.

Most of the babies were born at full term, while 4% were born prematurely, 0.3% were stillborn and 0.7% were miscarried late.

The authors found a ‘dose-response relationship’, showing that increasing caffeine intake was associated with increasing risk of fetal growth restriction.

Compared with pregnant women consuming less than 100mg/day (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.

neil.durham@haymarket.com

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