Caffeine Update: Prenatal Risks

Many members of the Church interpret the Word of Wisdom’s prohibitions on tea and coffee as a hint that caffeine itself should be treated cautiously. But many feel that drinking caffeinated soft drinks is OK and the Church does not require people to avoid them. While there’s a lot of evidence that soft drinks of any kind aren’t the best thing for your health, one interesting aspect of caffeine itself that many people might not know about is its potentially harmful effect on unborn children.

See Ellis Voerman, Vincent W.V. Jaddoe, and Olta Gishti, “Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy, early growth and body fat distribution at school-age. The Generation R Study, Obesity (Silver Spring), 24/5 (May 2016): 1170–1177; doi: 10.1002/oby.21466. Here is the abstract:


We examined the associations of maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy with offspring growth patterns, and body fat and insulin levels at school-age.


In a population-based birth cohort among 7,857 mothers and their children, we assessed maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy by questionnaires. Growth characteristics were measured from birth onwards. At 6 years, body fat and insulin levels were measured.


Compared to children whose mothers consumed <2 units of caffeine per day during pregnancy (1 unit of caffeine is equivalent to 1 cup of coffee (90 mg caffeine)), those whose mothers consumed ≥6 units of caffeine per day tended to have a lower weight at birth, higher weight gain from birth to 6 years and higher body mass index from 6 months to 6 years. Both children whose mothers consumed 4-5.9 and ≥6 units of caffeine per day during pregnancy tended to have a higher childhood body mass index and total body fat mass. Only children whose mothers consumed ≥6 units of caffeine per day had a higher android/gynoid fat mass ratio.


Our results suggest that high levels of maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy are associated with adverse offspring growth patterns and childhood body fat distribution.

This is one of several studies suggesting that expecting mothers should be careful about caffeine. Good to know. 

Author: Jeff Lindsay

4 thoughts on “Caffeine Update: Prenatal Risks

  1. I definitely think caffeine is a problem and I abstain from it.

    I also think the fact that we say little about sugary substances in the word of wisdom, which have a much faster impact on health renders all of our talk about the prescience of section 89 a little outmoded.

    We're such forerunners that we spotted the minor negative effects of coffee, that are so hard to trace they require sophisticated studies.

    But for a 100 years we missed the boat on refined carbohydrates like sugar, even mass produced it for a time.

    Those weren't also regarded as dangers, but after 100 years of social addiction the health problems they create exceed coffee 100 fold and we're still addicted to them in such a way that we ignore advice to limit or abstain.

    Anyhow, I think the caffeine studies and coffee counsel is great. I just think we've strained at toxic gnats while wolfing down rancid camels.

  2. Fair point. Note also that an endorsement of the value of grains is not an endorsement of high-fructose corn syrup.

  3. Consuming caffeine is different from consuming coffee. Coffee consumption historically correlates with longer life and positively so (more coffee consumption equates to more years of life— up to about 6-8 cups per day). The study did not seem to make a distinction which is problematic given what is known about coffee.

  4. Caffeine destroys minerals in bone, contributes to acid reflux among other things.

    Recently a friend has had to make drastic dietary changes due to a serious medical condition. Stopping caffeine consumption is one change. Stopping soda consumption is another.

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