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Tuesday, January 27, 1998 Published at 06:43 GMT



Sci/Tech

Research links cot death and caffeine
image: [ Pregnant women may be risking the health of their baby by drinking too much coffee, researchers say ]
Pregnant women may be risking the health of their baby by drinking too much coffee, researchers say

Doctors in New Zealand say research suggests that pregnant women who drink too much coffee or tea could increase the chance of their baby suffering cot death.


Sue MacGregor heads a discussion on the new research on the Today programme (Dur: 4' 2")
But the new research has provoked a storm of protest from coffee manufacturers who said the public had not been given the full facts about the risk.

The researchers, led by Dr Rodney Ford of the Community Paediatric Unit in Christchurch, New Zealand, revealed that drinks containing caffeine, including tea and colas, presented a risk if drunk in excessive quantities.


[ image: Coffee manufacturers say the link between caffeine and cot death has been exaggerated]
Coffee manufacturers say the link between caffeine and cot death has been exaggerated
But they said more work was needed to confirm the findings before any change in the health advice given to pregnant women.

Writing in the journal 'Archives of Disease in Childhood', they said the results showed that exposing a baby in the womb to high levels of caffeine "significantly increased" the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

"The importance of this finding is that drinking coffee, tea and cola is a common and easily modifiable behaviour," said the researchers."

"Reduction of heavy caffeine consumption during pregnancy could be another way to decrease the risk of SIDS, with nearly a sixth of infants so exposed."

But coffee producers have moved to reassure mothers-to-be, saying the risks had been exaggerated.

The Coffee News Information Service, a manufacturers' umbrella body, said that more than 400 milligrammes of caffeine - the amount claimed to pose a risk - was the same as six cups of coffee rather than four.


[ image: More research is needed into whether caffeine harms babies in the womb]
More research is needed into whether caffeine harms babies in the womb
A spokeswoman said: "Pregnant women or nursing mothers need have no cause for alarm.

"Doctors recommend that pregnant women and nursing mothers limit their consumption of caffeinated beverages to four or five cups per day and the coffee industry agrees with this advice."

The Health Visitors' Association attacked the way the findings had been publicised, claiming insufficient sensitivity had been shown to the risk of creating an unnecessary health scare.

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, which investigates the causes of cot death, called for further research.






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