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Starting the day with a hot cup of caffeinated coffee or tea may sound heavenly to some, but it could have negative effects on the children of pregnant women, according to a new study.
Children who were exposed to small amounts of caffeine before birth were found to be shorter on average than children of people who did not consume caffeine during pregnancy, according to the study published Monday in JAMA Network Open.
Children of parents who drank caffeine while in the womb were found to be smaller at age 4 than those whose parents didn’t – and the gap has grown. dug every year until age 8, according to lead author, perinatal specialist Dr. Jessica Gleason. epidemiologist.
“To be clear, these aren’t huge size differences, but there are these small size differences in the children of people who consumed caffeine during pregnancy,” said Gleason, a researcher at the Institute. National Eunice Kennedy Shriver of Child Health. and human development.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently recommends limiting caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day during pregnancy.
For context, a cup of caffeinated tea typically contains about 75 milligrams of caffeine, a cup of instant coffee contains about 100 milligrams, and a cup of filtered coffee contains about 140 milligrams, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And even chocolate contains about 31 milligrams of caffeine.
But the differences found in the most recent study were found even in children of parents who drank less than half a cup of coffee a day during pregnancy — well below current guidelines, Gleason said.
It’s unclear whether this study actually shows causality between maternal caffeine consumption and child height, according to Dr. Gavin Pereira, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Curtin University in Australia. Pereira did not participate in the study.
“The correlation observed in this study can be explained by the existence of a common cause for both caffeine consumption and growth restriction, for example poverty, stress and dietary factors,” said Pereira said in a statement to the Science Media Center.
If shorter height in infancy were to persist into adulthood, there would be a chance that these children would face the risk of poor cardiometabolic outcomes, such as heart disease and diabetes, that are associated with short stature. .
But there’s still no way of knowing whether the difference would persist into adulthood, and studies like this that focus on population outcomes are no reason for individual families to panic, a said Gleason.
These population-level trends should instead be taken with other research for organizations to re-evaluate their recommendations, Gleason said.
In the past, there were inconsistent studies about whether caffeine consumption during pregnancy had an impact on the fetus, but the evidence has come together in recent years, Gleason said.
A 2015 meta-analysis that reviewed all existing research found that there is a dose-response association between caffeine consumption and small birth size. And a 2020 study found that there is no safe level of caffeine for a developing fetus.
Even without the panic that Gleason warned of, some people might want to cut back on their caffeine intake — and then find that it’s easier said than done.
Remember that caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and shots, as well as cocoa and chocolate. It’s also found in fortified snacks, some energy bars, and even some pain relievers. (For a more comprehensive list of caffeine content from various sources, see the Center for Science in the Public Interest chart.)
A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study found it helpful for individuals to identify situations or moods in which they are most likely to crave caffeine so they can avoid situations that trigger caffeine. cravings, especially during the first few weeks of changing caffeine use. Caffeine drinkers might also have a plan in case of cravings, such as taking a five-minute relaxation break involving deep breathing exercises.
Remember to always discuss any major lifestyle or diet changes with your healthcare provider, as these changes may affect your mood or health.
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