Intake of caffeine and other methylxanthines during pregnancy and risk for adverse effects in pregnant women and their foetuses

image of Intake of caffeine and other methylxanthines during pregnancy and risk for adverse effects in pregnant women and their foetuses

The first part of the report deals with occurrence of methylxanthines in foods, beverages, and medicines, and estimates of caffeine intake. In addition, a short review of the pharmacological and toxicological actions of caffeine is given. The second and main part of the report reviews available information from epidemiological studies on the potential health hazards to the human foetus associated with parental intake during pregnancy of caffeine and related methylxanthines in foods, beverages and medicines. The studied adverse effects are influence on fertility, spontaneous abortion, congenital malformation, pre-term delivery, foetal growth retardation, foetal behaviour and effects on neonates, infants and young children. The conclusion of the report demonstrates the need for limiting caffeine exposure during pregnancy. The Nordic Working Group on Food Toxicology and Risk Evaluation (NNT) recognizes that the human exposure to caffeine and related compounds causes a spectrum of pharmacological effects, for instance cardiovascular, renal, neurological and behavioural effects. The increasing use of caffeine and related methylxanthines in various foods and beverages consumed by children and adolescents cause concern. NNT recommends that a full hazard characterization of caffeine and related methylxanthines should be performed with the aim to reach a conclusion about the upper safe level of intake of these compounds.



Occurrence of methylxanthines in food plants, beverages and pharmaceuticals

During several centuries man has enjoyed food and beverages containing stimulating ingredients such as methylxanthines. This chapter presents the most important food sources of methylxanthines, as well as the pharmaceuticals containing caffeine, which are commonly used in the Nordic countries. The food sources are presented in alphabetical order, beginning with products naturally containing methylxanthines: cocoa, coffee, guaraná, maté, tea, and yoco. The most abundant methylxanthine is caffeine, a substance present in the majority of hot beverages consumed today (Table 4). Thereafter, foodstuffs and drugs with added synthetic caffeine are mentioned. It should be stressed that certain older data on the methylxanthine content of various food products should be interpreted with care, since the chemical techniques used to identify and quantify the compounds were inadequate.


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