High caffeine levels in womb linked to overweight children

Researchers in Norway have said avoiding caffeine altogether may be advisable

Researchers in Norway have said avoiding caffeine altogether may be advisable

In the latest study, experts examined data from more than 50,000 Norwegian women and their babies by taking information from dietary surveys conducted in pregnancy and comparing them to child growth measurements, including weight.

The researchers also noted that the effect of prenatal caffeine exposure on postnatal growth and overweight was not dependent on birth weight.

The researchers kept track of the children's weight, height and body length up to age 8.

The mothers to be were grouped into four categories based on daily intake: 0-49 mg was low, 50-199 mg was average, 200-299 mg was high and 300 mg and above was very high.

Sources of dietary caffeine can include coffee, black tea, caffeinated soft/energy drinks, chocolate, chocolate milk, sandwich spreads; and desserts, cakes and candies.

Filter coffee contains more caffeine (140mg a cup).

It is important that pregnant women be aware that caffeine does not come from coffee only, but also from sodas and energy drinks, which can contribute a lot of caffeine to daily consumption, she said. Only 3 percent of the women had a very high intake and about 7 percent had a high one.

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Pregnant women should cut out coffee and other caffeinated food and drink completely to prevent their children from becoming overweight, a controversial new study suggests.

Average, high, and very high caffeine intake during pregnancy were associated with an increased risk - 15 per cent, 30 per cent, and 66 per cent respectively - of "excess growth" during their child's infancy compared to children born to mothers who had a low caffeine intake during pregnancy.

"Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed central nervous system stimulant", the researchers said in their study. But Dr Papadopoulou said less than this made children more prone to obesity.

And caffeine ingested at any level was reportedly connected to a greater risk of the child being overweight throughout the first several years of life. "Maternal caffeine intake may modify the overall weight growth trajectory of the child from birth to 8 years".

"The results support the current recommendations to limit caffeine intake during pregnancy to less than 200 milligrams [mg] of caffeine per day, which is approximately two to three cups of black coffee", said lead researcher Eleni Papadopoulou.

In this study, the mothers with high caffeine intake were most likely to be heavy smokers, economically disadvantaged, have poor diet and be overweight. Specifically, these children weighed, on average, 213 grams (7.5 ounces) more at 3 years, 320 grams (11.3 ounces) more at 5 years and 480 grams (16.9 ounces) more at 8 years than those children exposed to low levels of caffeine. "Sedentary behavior like games, computers and watching TV all come into play and can overwhelm the internal mechanism due to caffeine intake during pregnancy".

"Although most pregnant women reduce their caffeine intake during pregnancy and few have caffeine intakes higher than 200 mg per day (10%), our results show associations between caffeine intakes below 200 mg per day and excess growth", the researchers wrote.

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A 2015 study reported that exposure to caffeine in utero was associated with an 87% increased risk of childhood obesity.

But the observational study did not provide a clear cause and effect.

The new research was based on information from nearly 51,000 mothers who reported their caffeine intake through items such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate or chocolate milk and desserts like cake.

"Notwithstanding, the work adds to a growing body of evidence that a break from a cuppa during pregnancy may be good for the health of the next generation".

But not everyone agrees with the organization's current stance.

Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics at King's College London, said: "It is well established that accelerated growth rate in early life has long-term consequences for health".

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