Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Health alert: Caffeine during pregnancy is harmful

Researchers from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, integrating international research conclude that caffeine consumption during pregnancy is harmful. The study has just been published in Science Translational Medicine

Caffeine consumption during pregnancy is harmful to the developing baby's brain, concludes an international study which involved a team of researchers from the University of Coimbra (UC), through the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) and the Faculties of Medicine (FMUC) and Science and Technology (FCTUC).

The research resulting from a partnership with the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale - INSERM, of the Université Aix Marseille, has just been published in the prestigious Science Translational Medicine, Science group ( / content/5/197/197ra104), and also involved scientists from Germany and Croatia.

Caffeine being the most consumed psychoactive substance in the world, including during pregnancy, the team assessed the impact during the gestation period and described for the first time, the harmful effects of caffeine consumption (in female mice) during pregnancy, on the brain of their offspring. This study, although conducted in rodents, suggests that careful studies should be performed to evaluate the effects of caffeine consumption by pregnant women.

To evaluate the effects of caffeine, the researchers reproduced in mice, regular consumption of coffee in doses equivalent to drinking three cups of coffee daily throughout pregnancy and until weaning of pups.

The young mice "showed greater susceptibility of developing epilepsy, and when they reach adulthood, have detected problems of spatial memory," explains Rodrigo Cunha, coordinator of the Portuguese team.

The research team was able to identify the mechanism responsible for the harmful effects of caffeine in the brain under construction. During development, "caffeine alters the migration and insertion of GABA releasing neurons - the main chemical mediator inhibitor in the brain; these neurons are formed in a particular region and then migrate to, among other places, the hippocampus, a brain region which plays a key role in memory formation, "describes Rodrigo Cunha.

The team, continued the investigator, "found that caffeine directly influences the migration of these neurons, by blocking the action of a specific receptor, called A2A, slowing migration of neurons. Thus, the cells will reach their destination later than planned. This late migration affects the construction of the brain with effects observed after birth (changes in cellular excitability and increased susceptibility to seizures) and, during adulthood, neuron loss and memory deficits."

This study "is the first demonstration of the harmful effects of exposure to caffeine on the developing brain, and while questioning caffeine consumption by pregnant women, it is necessary to emphasize caution in extrapolating the results obtained in animal models to the human population without taking into account differences in brain development and maturation between species", says the researcher from Coimbra University.

Cristina Pinto

University of Coimbra


Translated from the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru

Lisa Karpova