A new study shows that one dose of caffeine -- just two cups of coffee -- ingested during pregnancy may be enough to affect fetal heart development and reduce heart function over the entire lifespan of the child.
In addition, the researchers also found that this minimal amount of exposure can lead to higher body fat among males. Although the study was in mice, the biological cause and effect described in the research paper likely applies to humans as well.
Researchers studied pregnant mice for 48 hours. Mice given caffeine produced embryos with a thinner layer of tissue separating some of the heart's chambers.
The researchers then examined the mice born from these groups to determine the long-term effects on the offspring. All of the adult males exposed to caffeine as fetuses had an increase in body fat of about 20 percent, and decrease in cardiac function of 35 percent.