(NaturalHealth365) The controversy over caffeine consumption during pregnancy is a long-standing one. While there is some evidence that caffeine can affect a baby in utero, the assumption has typically been that large amounts are bad, causing low birth weight and smaller birth size. Some doctors have actually told expecting moms that a little coffee or soda isn’t “that bad” because the caffeine content was so low.
A new study is debunking that belief, pointing to new evidence that maternal caffeine consumption, even in small amounts, affects child growth. Children whose mothers consumed small amounts of caffeine while pregnant were shorter in stature than children whose mothers abstained completely from caffeine during pregnancy.
Multiple studies investigate effect of maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy on child growth patterns
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Fetal Growth Studies, as part of the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes, studied children’s growth patterns over several years. There were several studies that were conducted, all measuring children between the ages of 4 years old and 8 years old, along with their measurements taken at birth.
The researchers measured caffeine and paraxanthine (the main metabolite of caffeine) in the mothers’ plasma during the first trimester.
The children’s z scores were collected for height, weight, body mass index, and fat mass index while including percentage and obesity risk. These measurements were taken at one point between 4 and 8 years old for one study. In the other study, measurements were taken at various points in the child’s life (3, 4, and 7 years) up to 8 years old.
Growth charts by the World Health Organization (WHO) were used for children 0 to 23 months, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts were used for children who were 24 months and older.
Caffeine affects a child’s size well into childhood and adulthood
The results of the study show that even low consumption of caffeine during pregnancy affects a child’s stature. In the studies, the mothers who consumed caffeine had children who were shorter in stature, and that persisted up through the child’s 8th birthday.
There was no link found between the children’s BMI and maternal caffeine, but it does appear to affect a long-term decrease in a child’s height. Even mothers who consumed less than 200 mg of caffeine a day – the current recommended amount – still had children who were shorter than average, meaning that they were impacted.
The health concern of a shorter stature has been associated with potential increased health risks like diabetes and obesity in adulthood, as well as a higher BMI. Interestingly, there appeared to be no link between maternal caffeine consumption and an increased risk of childhood obesity.
However, this does show that what we do during pregnancy and what our children experience in childhood does indeed affect them when they become adults. Even in the womb, we are laying the foundation for our children as the adults they will eventually become. We must take great care to lay a foundation that supports their future health and healthy habits, and that begins with abstaining from certain foods and substances like caffeine during pregnancy.
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