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Caffeine consumption during pregnancy could stunt childhood growth

A recent study found that children born to mothers who had consumed caffeine during pregnancy often had a reduced height during childhood compared with those born to mothers who had not consumed caffeine.

Maternal consumption of caffeine during pregnancy could lead to shorter stature for infants during childhood, according to a recent study.

Although caffeine consumption during pregnancy has been associated with lower birth weight, about 8 in 10 pregnant people consume caffeine. Studies have also associated high amounts of caffeine consumption during pregnancy with increased infant weight, body mass index (BMI), and obesity risk.

To determine the effects of different rates of maternal caffeine consumption on child weight, BMI, and fat mass, investigators conducted Environmental Influences on Child Health OutcomesFetal Growth Studies (ECHO-FGS). Participants included 1116 mothers and singleton birth children.

Children aged 4 to 8 years were measured for BMI, weight, height, fat mass index and percentage, and obesity risk. Data was also collected on caffeine and paraxanthine concentrations in maternal plasma during pregnancy.

A Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP) was referenced for data comparison. The study measured child height and weight at birth, 4 months, 8 months, 12 months, 3 years, 4 years, 7 years, and 8 years. Both studies converted scores to standardized height and weight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Caffeine and paraxanthine were measured in plasma samples collected during the first trimester. During this time, caffeine is metabolized to paraxanthine in about 3 hours. This metabolism increases to up to 10 hours in the third trimester.

Covariates included maternal age, smoking status, socioeconomic status, self-report race and ethnicity, parity, marriage status, and study site. In the CPP study, only nonsmokers were included, and in the ECHO-FGS, adjustments were made for maternal education.

There were 788 children in the ECHO-FGS. Among women participants, 31.4% were non-Hispanic Black women, 30% non-Hispanic White women, 25.5% Hispanic women, and 13.2% Asian or Pacific Islander women. Lesser caffeine consumption was often observed in younger women and non-Hispanic Black women.

Children had a mean age of 6.8 years, and 23.7% of children were overweight or had obesity. About 52% of children were boys.

Median maternal caffeine concentration was 168.5ng/mL, and the median maternal paraxanthine concentration was 73.8ng/mL. These data indicate a daily median consumption of under 50 mg. Children in this cohort had a height difference of 1.5 cm less and a weight difference of 1.1 kg less at age 7.

BMI scores, child fat mass index, and fat percentage did not vary between groups. There was also no greater risk of being overweight or having obesity due to caffeine or paraxanthine concentration.

In the study, children born to mothers who had consumed caffeine often had a shorter stature in the first 8 years of life. These results are consisted with those of prior studies, indicating that maternal caffeine consumption is linked to long-term reductions in growth.


Gleason JL, Sundaram R, Mitro SD, Hinkle SN, Gilman SE, Zhang C, et al. Association of maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy with child growth. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(10):e2239609. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.39609