during pregnancy

Excessive Caffeine During Pregnancy Can Lead to Childhood Weight Gain, Says New Study

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We all know that there are foods, drinks, and other things to avoid during pregnancy. It’s one of the first things your doctor and mom friends will tell you when you get pregnant. No smoking, no alcohol, no drugs. Stay away from soft cheeses, some deli meats, raw fish and meat. Some of these things are more dangerous than others, while some can be consumed in small quantities. For the most part, caffeine has always been in the “OK in small quantities” category, although plenty of women take liberties with the amount of caffeine they consume. However, a new study has linked excessive caffeine during pregnancy with some pretty concerning health risks for babies and kids.

According to a new study published this week, excessive caffeine during pregnancy can lead to childhood weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity later in life.

The concerning findings shed some light on how much caffeine is safe to consume during pregnancy. The study was conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and was published in the journal BMJ Open on Monday. It looked at over 50,000 women from Norway. The women were recruited as part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study between 1999 and 2008. The pregnant women’s caffeine intake was reported once during the study, at 22 weeks. Their children’s growth patterns were recorded from 6 weeks to 8 years of age.

Researchers categorized caffeine intake as low (low (0-49 milligrams/day), average (50-199 mg/day), high (200-299 mg/day) or very high (300 or more mg/day). Caffeine sources could be anything from coffee or tea to soda and some types of sweets (like chocolate).

Researchers found that women who had a very high intake of caffeine during pregnancy (300 or more mg/day) had a 66% higher chance of having a child with excessive growth during the first year of life.

In addition, children who were exposed to very high levels of caffeine in utero were more likely to become overweight during childhood. Researchers found that exposure to average, high, and very high levels of caffeine during pregnancy significantly raised the risk of the child being overweight at 3 and 5 years old. Even at 8 years old, these children were still found to have a higher risk of being overweight.

Current recommendations say that pregnant women can safely consume up to 200 mg/day of caffeine. But these new findings show heightened risk associations at 200 mg/day and lower. It’s certainly concerning, and definitely something pregnant women should discuss with their doctors.

(Image: iStock / Dejan_Dundjerski)