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Coffee & Health

Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Racial Disparities in Fetal Telomere Length

I Griffin et al, 2020.
International Journal of Maternal and Child Health and Aids, Volume 9 (1)
March 4, 2020


Background and objectives:

The identification of risk factors for shorter telomere length, especially during fetal development, would be important towards caffeine consumption recommendations for pregnant women on a global scale. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between caffeine intake and fetal telomere length as well as racial/ethnic differences in telomere length regardless of maternal caffeine consumption status.


Caffeine intake was measured using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Three generalized linear models (GLM) were compared based on binary categorical variables of caffeine levels using data mean value of 117.3 mg as cut-off; the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of 300 mg; and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommendations of 200 mg. The association between caffeine consumption and telomere length (telomere to single-copy [T/S] ratio) was then assessed.


Among 57 maternal-fetal dyads, 77.2% reported less than 200 mg of caffeine (ACOG) and 89.5% less than 300 mg (WHO). Both WHO and ACOG models found that caffeine intake was significantly and positively associated with longer telomere length (p<0.05); and sodium (p<0.05). Other” race (p<0.001) and “white” race (p<0.001) were also significantly and positively associated with longer telomere length in the same models. Increasing maternal age shortened telomere length significantly in all models (p<0.001).

Conclusion and global health implications:

Caffeine intake, maternal age, and race may be associated with alterations in fetal telomere length. This indicates that caffeine consumption during pregnancy may have long-term implications for fetal development. The racial/ethnic differences in telomere length found in this study warrant larger studies to further confirm these associations.

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