Caffeine, Risk, and Babies

For a long time I was a coffee guy. Three cups a day in fact. Coffee so black I used to stir it with a dipstick. Needless to say, I don’t partake in the java anymore. Why? Well according to Dr. Fuhrman coffee and caffeine can contribute to major health problems, like cardiac arrhythmias and heart disease. There’s more on that in Eat to Live:
Caffeine addicts are at higher risk of cardiac arrhythmias that could precipitate sudden death.1 Coffee raises blood pressure and raises cholesterol and homocysteine, two risk factors for heart disease.2
Also, Dr. Fuhrman insists that caffeine consumption can interfere with your body’s ability to overcome toxic hunger and leave you further out of touch with true hunger. Back to Eat to Live:
Eating more food suppresses caffeine-withdrawals headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. When you are finally finished digesting the meal, the body more effectively cleans house; at this time people experience a drive to eat more to suppress caffeine-withdrawal symptoms. You are prodded to eat again, eating more food than you would if you were not a caffeine addict.
Now, not only does Dr. Fuhrman recommend avoiding caffeine as an adult, but he considers it especially verboten for pregnant mothers. He talks about that in Disease-Proof Your Child:
Caffeine has been a controversial topic for decades. Evidence clearly concludes that heavy coffee drinkers have an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight infants, but evidence is not clear for moderate users of caffeine.3 Nevertheless, is wise to stay away from as many potentially harmful substances as possible. The bottom line, if in doubt, don’t do it.
Personally, I agree with him. There are plenty of other things to drink. You don’t HAVE to drink coffee or caffeine. Just because as a culture we associate mornings with caffeine, doesn’t mean you need to follow the rest of lemmings off the cliff. But apparently for some, this isn’t satisfactory.

Dutch researchers claim that reducing caffeine consumption during pregnancy from three cups of coffee a day to one has no effect on the baby’s birth weight. Nicholas Bakalar of The New York Times reports:
The researchers recruited 1,207 pregnant women at 20 weeks’ gestation or less who reported drinking at least three cups of caffeinated coffee a day. About half of the women were randomly assigned to drink caffeinated coffee, while the other half were instructed to drink decaf for the duration of their pregnancies, with no other changes in their usual consumption of tea or caffeinated soft drinks.

After adjusting for prepregnancy weight, smoking status and other variables, the average birth weight of babies in the decaf group was a statistically insignificant one-half ounce higher than that of babies in the coffee-drinking group.
Again, if something as trivial as your beverage preference has even the slightest risk of harming your unborn child, why not put the kibosh on it? Uh duh!

For more on coffee and health, check out these previous posts:
1. Mehta, A., A. C. Jain, M.C. Mehta, and M. Billie. 1997. Caffeine and cardiac arrhythmias: an experimental study in dogs with review of literature. Acta Cardiol. 52 (3):273-83.

2. Nurminen, M.L., L. Niittymen, R. Korpela, and H. Vapaatalo. 1999. Coffee, caffeine and blood pressure: a critical review. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 53 (11): 831-39; Christensen, B., A. Mosdol, L. Rettersol, et al. 2001. Abstention from filtered coffee reduces the concentration of plasma homocysteine and serum cholesterol—a randomized controlled trail. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 74(3):302-07.

3. Bracken MB, Triche EW, Belanger K, et. Al. Association of maternal caffeine consumption with decrements in fetal growth. Am J Epidemiol 2003; 157(5): 456-466. Vik T, Bakketeig LS, Trygg KU, et al. High caffeine consumption in the third trimester of pregnancy: gender-specific effects on fetal growth. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2003; 17(4):324-331. Rasch V. Cigarette, alcohol, and caffeine consumption: risk factors for spontaneous abortion. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2003;82(2): 182-188.
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Louise - February 21, 2007 5:29 PM

Hi! I gave up coffee for six weeks in 2004. So maybe I'm not an addict. But I like brewed organic coffee in the morning, half decaf, and a couple shots of espresso several times per week, with a cut-off of 10:30AM, so I think that lessons the effect.

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