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Pregnant women advised to cut caffeine intake

Women have been advised to cut how much tea and coffee they drink while pregnant after new research found consuming caffeine at any point while expecting a baby was associated with an increased risk of low birth weight.

The study of 2,645 pregnant women found the risk of having a lower birth weight baby increased even with low levels of caffeine consumption.

Compared to pregnant women consuming less than 100mg/day (the equivalent of less than one cup of coffee), the estimated risk of having a lower birth weight baby increased by 20% for intakes of 100–199mg/day, by 50% for those taking between 200–299mg/day, and by 40% for over 300mg/day.

There was no level of caffeine intake at which the raised risk of fetal growth restriction stopped increasing during pregnancy, the study found.

Caffeine consumption of more than 100mg/day was associated with a reduction in birth weight of 34–59g in the first trimester, 24–74g in the second, and about 66–89g in the third trimester.

The researchers from the University of Leicester also noted that the link between caffeine and fetal growth restriction was stronger in women who metabolised caffeine more quickly.

The study concluded: "Once pregnancy is confirmed, [women] should make every effort to stop or markedly reduce caffeine consumption.

The findings, published today in the BMJ, have caused the Food Standards Agency to cut its recommended daily limit of caffeine consumption in pregnancy from 300mg to 200mg. The new limit is equivalent to approximately two cups of coffee or 4 cups of tea per day.

However, Professors Jorn Olsen, professor at the UCLA School of Public Health, and Bodil Hammer Bech, assistant professor at the University of Aarhus Institute of Public Health in Denmark, in an accompanying editorial in the BMJ, said advising women to cut out caffeine completely 'may unnecessarily frighten women who have consumed caffeine while pregnant' and 'is not justified by the current body of evidence'.

The women studied were aged 30 on average and between 8 and 12 weeks pregnant. All pregnancies were low risk. More 60 per cent of the women consumed most of their caffeine from tea.

FSA cuts recommended caffeine intake for pregnant women to the equivalent of 4 cups of tea a day FSA cuts recommended caffeine intake for pregnant women to the equivalent of 4 cups of tea a day

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