The U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised pregnant women to reduce their daily caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams – or approximately two mugs of coffee. The agency previously suggested a maximum intake of 300 mg, but lowered its recommendation after the British Medical Journal published an FSA-funded study concluding that a further reduction would lessen the health risks to unborn children. “This is because too much caffeine might result in a baby having a lower birth weight than it should, which can increase the risk of some health conditions later in life,” stated FSA in a November 3, 2008, press release.

FSA has since issued guidelines intended to help expectant mothers gauge their caffeine consumption. The agency has calculated that 200 mg is roughly equal to (i) two mugs of instant coffee; (ii) one mug of filtered coffee; (iii) two mugs of tea; (iv) five cans of cola; (v) two cans of energy drink; or (vi) four bars of plain chocolate. “This new advice doesn’t mean that pregnant women have to cut out caffeine completely, simply that they should be careful and make sure they don’t have too much,” said FSA Chief Scientist Andrew Wadge. “We would emphasize that the risks are likely to be very small and believe our advice, which is based on new research and has been considered by leading independent scientists, is sensible and proportionate.” See, November 4, 2008.

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