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Caffeine link to underweight babies

Drinking just two cups of coffee a day during pregnancy could result in underweight babies.

That's the conclusion of a new report by the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The findings, published in BMC Medicine, are consistent with earlier studies.

What makes this one different, though, is the scale of the research, which studied 59,000 pregnant Norwegian women.

But it could not find a link between women who drank coffee during pregnancy and giving birth prematurely.

The mothers-to-be studied were healthy and had uncomplicated pregnancies until delivery, while the results were adjusted for age, smoking, body mass index, nicotine use, alcohol consumption and other variables that affect fetal growth.

Researcher Verena Sengpiel said the link between caffeine intake and fetal growth was established even among women keeping to the official recommended caffeine consumption limits of 200 milligrams a day - or two cups of coffee.

The medical term used in this connection is "small for gestational age" (SGA), which is associated with an increased risk of morbidity and death.

Ms Sengpiel stressed that the research did not look at whether caffeine is the specific mechanism substance responsible for the fetus being at greater risk of low birth weight.

Nor did they examine whether these babies actually had special health problems during the neonatal period.

Researchers hope to undertake further extensive studies about the cause-effect relationship between caffeine use and SGA, and the correlation between SGA and neonatal morbidity and death.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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