This research project will address the issue of whether high maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy leads to an increased incidence of low birth weight babies.
<p>This study will be carried out simultaneously in Leeds and Leicester. Each site will recruit about 1500 pregnant women (3,000 in total).
It is estimated that about 300 (10%) of the women will deliver low birth weight babies.
Caffeine consumption during pregnancy will be determined by measuring caffeine and its metabolites in urine and saliva, in conjunction with information from a specially designed caffeine assessment questionnaire and diet recalls.
In October 2001 the Agency advised that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to the equivalent of no more than four average cups of coffee a day.
The advice was based on the opinion of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) on the reproductive effects of caffeine.
<p>It has been suggested that higher caffeine intakes may carry an increased risk of both spontaneous miscarriage and low birth weight.
However, previous research has been hampered by difficulties in obtaining accurate measurements of caffeine intake and assessment of individual differences in caffeine metabolism.
<p>This study is of importance as it links, for the first time, accurate estimates of caffeine intake, interindividual variations in caffeine metabolism and pregnancy outcome.
The research will help to reduce uncertainties in the current risk assessment and provide a robust basis for the Agency's advice to pregnant women on caffeine consumption.
<p>Unlike much of the previous research into the possible effects of caffeine on reproductive health, this study is prospective.
It includes biomarkers of caffeine intake and explores interindividual variations in caffeine metabolism. In addition it will consider all sources of caffeine intake, not just tea and coffee.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.