A review of caffeine use as a risk or protective factor for women's health and pregnancy

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To provide a narrative synthesis of recently published studies on caffeine use as a risk or protective factor for health outcomes, with a focus on women's health and pregnancy.

Recent findings

Based on predominantly observational studies, moderate caffeine intake has been shown to be a protective factor for liver cancer, certain bowel conditions, colorectal cancer, skin cancer, and regular menstrual cycle function. However, heavy consumption is a risk factor for osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, and poorer birth and child developmental outcomes. Residual confounding and issues surrounding retrospective self-reported intake are cited as key limitations in the majority of these studies. Moderate caffeine intake has been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome; however, recent genetic epidemiology studies provide no evidence for a causal relationship.

Summary

Greater inclusion of female participants in studies, and analysis of sex differences in the relationship between caffeine intake and certain health conditions, is necessary. The current literature suggests caffeine's role as a risk or protective factor differs across health conditions. Often, there are plausible biological mechanisms for this relationship. However, a continued precautionary stance is recommended until direct causal pathways are established. Review of recently published studies does not suggest that current intake guidelines for adults and for pregnant woman need to be modified.

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