Caffeine intake during pregnancy, is it safe?

Caffeine intake during pregnancy, is it safe?

By Kristelle Bechayda

Due to their precarious condition, pregnant women are restricted to take several food and beverages, including caffeine. Did you know that too much of it during pregnancy can actually affect the baby’s liver development?

A recent study conducted by professor Hui Wang from Wuhan University in China revealed that not only does excessive amount of caffeine impair liver development but it also increases the baby’s risk of having liver disease when he reaches adulthood.

By making use of pregnant rats, the researchers investigated how both low (equivalent to 2-3 cups of coffee)  and high (equivalent of 6-9 cups of coffee) doses of caffeine affect the liver function and hormone levels of their offspring.

It delays the baby’s liver development

It was discovered that offspring exposed to prenatal caffeine had lower levels of the liver hormone IGF-1, which is one of the important growth factor for human development, as well as higher levels of the stress hormone corticosteroid at birth.

“Our results indicate that prenatal caffeine causes an excess of stress hormone activity in the mother, which inhibits IGF-1 activity for liver development before birth,” says study co-author Dr. Yinxian Wen.

The researcher added that to accelerate growth and restore the liver’s normal function, ‘compensatory mechanisms’ like the increase in IGF-1 activity and decrease in stress hormone signals occur, exposing the offspring’s chances of developing liver disease.

“The increased risk of fatty liver disease caused by prenatal caffeine exposure is most likely a consequence of this enhanced, compensatory postnatal IGF-1 activity.” Dr. Wen explained.

Pregnant women should avoid caffeine

Though the findings still need to be confirmed in human subjects, the results are shedding light that prenatal caffeine exposure doesn’t only increase chances of lower birth weight and impaired liver development, it also results to hormonal changes that could lead to developing liver disease in the future.

“Our work suggests that prenatal caffeine is not good for babies and although these findings still need to be confirmed in people, I would recommend that women avoid caffeine during pregnancy,” Dr. Wen ended.