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There is new evidence that pregnant women who consume high amounts of caffeine risk having low birth weight children. Researchers in Great Britain studied over 2500 pregnant women with an average age of 30. The findings of the research show that consuming even moderate amounts of caffeine while pregnant can increase the risks of having a low birth weight child.
In the British study, the average caffeine intake of the pregnant mothers was 159 mg daily, far lower than the UK's recommended standard of 300 mg a day. Of course, because the participants were British, the main source of consumed caffeine was tea, but caffeine from coffee, soft drinks and so-called “energy drinks” are just as dangerous, if not more so.
The research showed that 4% of the mothers gave birth to low birth weight babies, and there was a direct correlation between these births and consuming higher amounts of caffeine. Statistically, the research shows that women have a 20% increased chance of giving birth to a low birth weight baby if they consume up to 199 mg of caffeine daily.
Those who consumed up to 300 mg of caffeine daily had a 50% higher incidence of low birth weight babies. In addition to the low birth weight, higher consumption of caffeine was also associated with premature birth. The researchers found the correlation between low birth weight and caffeine to be at its strongest amongst women whose bodies metabolize caffeine quicker.
The British Medical Journal, which published the results of the research, pointed out that women should reduce their caffeine consumption significantly while pregnant. Ideally, women who are just planning to get pregnant in the near future should reduce their caffeine intake as well.
The research reinforces other studies which have shown a link between increased levels of caffeine and problem pregnancies. For example, a growing body of research suggests that higher caffeine consumption affects fetal growth, and could have unknown long-term risks for the child, including nervous system disorders and stunted growth in adolescence.
In the US, where many adults are practically addicted to caffeinated coffee and routinely rely on it to start their day, the problem could be even more widespread. On average, coffee contains slightly more caffeine than tea, making it easier for pregnant women to go beyond the recommended daily amount without realizing it.
With coffee franchises popping up in every corner of the U. S. (Starbucks anyone?), it could be more difficult for pregnant American women to avoid caffeine consumption. The research suggests that women should cut back significantly on coffee and other caffeinated beverages for the sake of their unborn child's health. Either that, or get used to drinking decaf!