Moderate amounts of caffeine are not linked to maternal health risks

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A study conducted by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institutes of Health, which targeted 2,529 pregnant women, found that low caffeine consumption could help reduce the risk of pregnancy gestational diabetes.

“Although we have not been able to study the combination of consumption above the recommended limit, we now know that low to moderate caffeine is not associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or hypertension for expectant mothers,” said the lead author Dr. Stefanie Hinkle, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Penn.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 mg (about two cups of about 180 ml) per day. The recommendations are based on studies that suggest potential associations with pregnancy loss and weight gain in high caffeine use. However, there are limited data on the link between caffeine and maternal health outcomes. To better understand this association, the researchers studied the prospective data of 2,529 pregnant participants who were enrolled in the fetal growth studies of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

At registration and at each subsequent visit to the office, the women reported their weekly consumption of caffeinated coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, and energy drinks. Caffeine levels were also measured in participants’ plasma at 10 to 13 weeks of gestation. The researchers then associated caffeine consumption with primary outcomes: clinical diagnoses of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia.

Consumption of caffeinated beverages from 10 to 13 weeks of gestation has not been linked to the risk of gestational diabetes. During the second trimester, consumption of up to 100 mg of caffeine per day was even associated with a 47% reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes. At the same time, there were no statistically significant differences in blood pressure or preeclampsia between people who consumed or did not consume caffeine during pregnancy.

The researchers found that the results were consistent with studies that combined caffeine with an improved energy balance and a decrease in fat mass. They also said they could not rule out that the findings could be due to other constituents of coffee and tea, such as phytochemicals, which can affect inflammation and insulin resistance, leading to a lower risk of gestational diabetes.

“It would not be advisable for women who do not drink to start drinking caffeinated beverages in order to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes,” says Hinkle. “But our findings may provide some assurance to women who are already consuming low to moderate levels of caffeine that such consumption is unlikely to increase their maternal health risks.”

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