Mothers-to-be are urged to avoid caffeine as research shows there is NO safe level of consumption ‘and even low intake increases the risk of miscarriage’
- The research assessed the results of 48 studies published over the past 20 years
- But the paper was controversial, and experts called the claims alarming
- Guidelines suggest that women should not consume more than 200 mg of caffeine per day
Pregnant women should avoid caffeine altogether for the sake of their baby’s health, a study last night warned.
The research suggested that there was no safe level of consumption, both in children and when trying to conceive.
Based on 48 studies over 20 years, it concluded that even a minimal intake of caffeine increased the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or low birth weight.
But experts said the warnings were alarming and conflicted with studies showing moderate amounts were safe.
Women should not consume more than 200 mg per day – about two cups of coffee, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG). Last night it insisted it should not change this advice.
Current guidelines on the NHS website suggest that pregnant women should limit the amount of caffeine they consume to 200 milligrams per day
But Professor Jack James, the author of the new paper, claims that thousands of babies are harmed every year when women consume supposedly safe amounts of caffeine.
The studies he reviewed at Reykjavik University in Iceland found that even low caffeine levels can increase the risk of miscarriage by up to 36 percent, stillbirth by up to 19 percent, and low birth weight by up to 51 percent. Leukemia and childhood obesity were also potential risks.
Professor James calculated that if every pregnant woman in Great Britain consumed 200 mg of caffeine per day, 70,000 babies would suffer harm.
He says this is probably an underestimate because many women drink more than the recommended maximum.
“Caffeine is an addictive substance consumed by most pregnant women on a daily basis,” wrote the professor in BMJ’s Evidence-Based Medicine journal.
HOW MUCH CAFEINE IS SAFE?
The EU food safety watchdog recommended a daily limit of 400 mg for adults in its first caffeine intake guidelines in 2015.
Officials from the European Food Safety Agency suggested that pregnant women should keep intake below 200mg.
It also advised children not to consume more than 3 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight – the equivalent of two mugs of milky tea for a four-year-old child.
Health officials warned those who cross borders are at risk for a host of health problems, from anxiety to heart failure.
The warning also showed links between high caffeine intake during pregnancy and having an underweight baby.
The NHS says too much caffeine can cause miscarriage. There are also links to birth defects. However, because coffee is by no means the only food or drink that contains caffeine, people can inadvertently cross the safe limit.
He said that caffeine was usually absorbed by the body quickly, with peak concentrations within an hour.
It then takes about five hours for the caffeine level in the blood to halve and then gradually fall.
But he said it took the body much longer during pregnancy to get rid of the substance. By the 38th week of pregnancy, it can take 18 hours for the caffeine content to halve.
Professor James said this meant that an unborn baby could be exposed to the drug for several hours – with a profound impact on the developing body, such as speeding up the baby’s heartbeat and constricting blood vessels in his brain.
He wrote, “Indeed, newborn babies of mothers who consume caffeine reportedly have caffeine withdrawal symptoms including disturbed sleep, vomiting, increased frequency of irregular heartbeat and breathing, and increased fine tremors.”
Dr. However, Daghni Rajasingam, RCOG spokesperson, said women shouldn’t have to forgo tea and coffee completely during pregnancy – advice that wouldn’t change in light of the review.
“Other – and possibly more reliable – research has found that pregnant women don’t need to cut out caffeine altogether because these risks are extremely small, even if recommended caffeine limits are exceeded,” she said.
“The advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to limit caffeine intake to 200 mg per day – the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee – stands.” Dr. Adam Jacobs, deputy director of biostatistics at Premier Research, warned that the damage found in the paper may not have been due to caffeine at all.
He said: ‘Given that pregnant women have been advised to avoid excessive caffeine consumption for at least the past 40 years, you might expect women who drink coffee during pregnancy to be generally less likely to follow health advice , and possibly in some ways that are. quite difficult to measure. ‘
Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak, of the University of Adelaide in Australia, added, “The author’s conclusion that all pregnant and contemplating pregnancy should avoid caffeine is overly alarming and contradicts the evidence.”
Critics said Professor James had simply reassessed the existing data, which had previously been interpreted as showing that moderate intake is relatively safe.