Fears over caffeine guidelines

UK guidelines on caffeine consumption during pregnancy may not go far enough, a large Scandinavian study suggests.

The research found that daily caffeine consumption equivalent to roughly one cup of fresh coffee, or two cups of instant, significantly increased the chances of giving birth to an underweight baby.

Consuming 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day was found to increase the risk of a baby being small for gestational age by up to 62%.

The association was independent of smoking, a major risk factor for low birth weight which may be linked to caffeine intake.

Coffee, but not other sources of caffeine, was also associated with longer pregnancies.

The researchers said that the reason for this was currently unknown, but it could be linked to behaviour rather than a substance in coffee.

While the World Health Organisation recommends a maximum of 300 milligrams of caffeine per day during pregnancy, the UK, Nordic countries and the US set the limit at 200 milligrams.

However, the Scandinavian study, published in the online journal BMC Medicine, shows that even 200 milligrams of caffeine a day can increase the risk of a baby being small for gestational age.

The researchers concluded: "This association should be further investigated and recommendations might have to be re-evaluated."

Copyright Press Association 2013

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