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Even a Little Caffeine Can Harm Fetus
By Michael Kahn
Nov. 3, 2008

Pregnant women who consume caffeine -- even about a cup of coffee daily -- are
at higher risk of giving birth to an underweight baby, researchers said on

The new findings published in the British Medical Journal also linked any source
of caffeine, including that from tea, cola, chocolate and some prescription drugs,
to relatively slower fetal growth.

The findings are the latest in mounting evidence indicating the amount of
caffeine a person consumes may directly impact one's health, especially when

In January, U.S. researchers found that pregnant women who drink two or more
cups of coffee a day are at twice the risk of having a miscarriage as those
women who avoid caffeine.

Babies born underweight are more likely to develop a range of health conditions
when they grow older, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart

Women who drank one to two cups of coffee daily, or between 100-199
milligrams, had a 20 percent increased risk of having a baby of low birth weight,
the study found. This was compared to women who consumed less than 100
milligrams daily.

"Caffeine consumption during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk
of fetal growth restriction and this association continued throughout pregnancy,"
Justin Konje at the University of Leicester in Britain and colleagues wrote.

"Sensible advice would be to reduce caffeine intake before conception and
throughout pregnancy."

Konje and his team -- which included researchers from the University of Leeds --
looked at 2,645 women at an average age of 30 who were between 8 and 12
weeks pregnant.

The women reported an average caffeine consumption during pregnancy of 159
milligrams per day, lower than new recommended limits of 200 milligrams in

The likelihood of having a low birth weight baby rose to 50 percent for women
who consumed between 200 milligrams and 299 milligrams each day, about two
to three cups of coffee.

The impact was about the same as from alcohol and the association with low
birth weight was maintained throughout a woman's pregnancy, the study found.
Even small amounts may prove harmful but Konje said in a telephone interview
the best advice was to limit caffeine consumption to below 100
milligrams a day.

"We couldn't say that there was a lower limit for which there is no effect," he said.
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