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GP alcohol advice 'overly cautious'

The advice GPs currently give to pregnant women on alcohol and caffeine intake may be excessively cautious, new research suggests.

Two separate studies have questioned Government guidance, which recommends against drinking more than two alcohol units a day or 'a lot of' caffeine during pregnancy.

Researchers at the University of Oxford found 'no convincing evidence of adverse effects' for low to moderate alcohol intake in a systematic review of 46 articles. The study – which Pulse first reported on last year – was commissioned by the Department of Health and published online by the BJOG.

Dr Ron Gray, consultant clinical epidemiologist at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, said: 'This review found no convincing evidence of adverse effects at low to moderate levels of exposure,' although he stressed this did not mean that drinking at these levels during pregnancy was safe.

A Danish team also reported online in the BMJ that they were unable to find differences in birth weight between mothers with high and low caffeine intakes. The study, conducted at the Aarhus Institute of Public Health, found no differences in birth weight in 1,207 women randomised to caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee before 20 weeks' gestation.

The department cautions drinking more than two units of alcohol a day risks having babies with attention problems, and women are also advised to drink no more than three cups of instant coffee a day.

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