January 06, 2020
3 min read
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Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy associated with pediatric abdominal, liver fat

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Romy Gaillard

Children born to mothers who consumed at least 360 mg caffeine per day during pregnancy are more likely to have a higher BMI and greater total body, abdominal and liver fat masses compared with children born to mothers who consumed 90 mg or less caffeine per day, according to findings from a population-based study.

“Our study shows that high maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is related to increased adiposity in the children of these mothers,” Romy Gaillard, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics, Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, told Healio. “The children of mothers with a high caffeine intake during pregnancy had a higher childhood BMI and more total body fat, abdominal fat and liver fat, as compared to children of mothers who consumed a low amount of caffeine during pregnancy.”

Gaillard and colleagues analyzed data from 4,770 mothers and children participating in Generation R, a prospective, population-based study from early pregnancy onward in Rotterdam. Researchers assessed maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy via questionnaires and childhood fat mass via DXA at age 10 years. To calculate total caffeine intake for each trimester, researchers weighed type of coffee or tea according to caffeine content (caffeinated coffee = 1; caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee = 0.5; decaffeinated coffee = 0; caffeinated tea = 0.5; caffeinated and decaffeinated tea = 0.25; decaffeinated tea = 0; herbal tea = 0; and green tea = 0.5). Each unit of caffeine intake reflected caffeine exposure based on one cup of caffeinated coffee (90 mg caffeine). Total daily caffeine intake was stratified as less than 2 U, 2 U to 3.9 U, 4 U to 5.9 U and at least 6 U per day.

Cup of Coffee 
Children born to mothers who consumed at least 360 mg caffeine per day during pregnancy are more likely to have a higher BMI and greater total body, abdominal and liver fat masses compared with children born to mothers who consumed 90 mg or less caffeine per day.
Source: Shutterstock

Within the cohort, 58.3% of women consumed less than 2 U caffeine daily, 33.2% consumed between 2 U and 3.9 U, 6.9% consumed between 4 U and 5.9 U and 1.6% consumed at least 6 U caffeine daily.

Researchers found that the children of mothers who consumed between 4 U and 5.9 U caffeine daily had a higher BMI compared with the children of mothers who consumed less than 2 U caffeine per day (mean difference, 0.12 standard deviation [SD]; 95% CI, 0.01-0.24), as well as greater total body fat mass index (mean difference, 0.14 SD; 95% CI, 0.04-0.25) and greater android/gynoid fat mass ratio (mean difference, 0.16 SD; 95% CI, 0.05-0.27). Similarly, compared with the children of mothers who consumed less than 2 U caffeine per day, children of mothers who consumed at least 6 U caffeine per day had a higher BMI (mean difference, 0.24 SD; 95% CI, 0.01-0.47), greater total body fat mass index (mean difference, 0.22 SD; 95% CI, 0.02-0.43) and greater android/gynoid fat mass ratio (mean difference, 0.22 SD; 95% CI, 0.01-0.44).

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The children of mothers who consumed at least 6 U caffeine daily were also more likely to have overweight or obesity at age 10 years compared with the children of mothers who consumed 2 U or less per day (OR = 1.59; 95% CI, 0.92-2.75). All results persisted after adjustment for gestational age at birth and birth weight, and associations were similar across pregnancy.

Children of mothers who consumed between 4 U and 5.9 U caffeine daily also had higher liver fat fraction when compared with the reference population (mean difference, 0.2 SD; 95% CI, 0.04-0.36).

“From previous studies, it is already known that mothers who consume a high amount of caffeine during pregnancy have a higher risk of adverse birth outcomes, such as delivering newborns with a low birth weight,” Gaillard said. “Based on these observations, current guidelines already advise pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake to 200 to 300 mg per day during their pregnancy. The findings in our current study support these current guidelines and show that high maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy, above the recommended amount, is not only related to adverse birth outcomes, but also related to increased childhood fat levels in the offspring.” – by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Romy Gaillard, MD, PhD, can be reached at the Generation R Study Group, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, P.O. Box 2040, Rotterdam, 3,000 CA, Netherlands; email: r.gaillard@erasmusmc.nl.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.