I rather imagine that being pregnant is a pretty unsettling experience. Scary, even. Probably the last thing you need is somebody spooking you even further. You have enough on your plate, really. Yes, if you’re a smoker, you may want to knock that on the head*, and the bottle of scotch a day has to stop. I get that. But you don’t want a bunch of Nordic killjoys waving a finger at you about your coffee drinking, now do you?

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has the sheer, barefaced effrontery to suggest that  ‘complete avoidance’ of caffeine ‘might actually be advisable.’ Oh really? Let’s look a bit more closely here, shall we?

The contention here is that maternal caffeine consumption may lead to your offspring heading for obesity in later life. A study of 50,000 women revealed that children born to those with a ‘high’ caffeine intake were bigger at every year from birth up to the age of eight than those born to low caffeine exposed women.

I can see a flaw here already. There’s some very convincing evidence that high caffeine exposure is associated with a lower birthweight. This doesn’t seem to be a problem, it’s just one of those things. It’s not as if the foetus gets to term and is born weighing less than a bag of sugar. The child is just at the lower end of normal. No big deal, really. But the NIPH seems to be suggesting that those low birthweight children will accelerate away from the pack and cram on weight faster. I find that unlikely.

Let’s forge ahead, eh? Eight years is hardly a long timescale, is it? Bloody hell, most children won’t have hit puberty by then. Eight years is nothing. And the metrics they used here are woeful. The ‘study’ notes that children at eight who had caffeine-freak mums were much heavier than their peers. Like half a kilo heavier. For those of us still using old money, that’s about a pound. Given that an average eight year old can weigh 52 to 63 pounds, we have a discrepancy of between just less than 2% to less than 1.6%. In proper grownup scientific circles, nobody reckons anything under 5% is significant. They won’t even bother wasting time doing the statistics on anything under 5%.

There’s the gorilla in the room too. This was an observational study, not an interventional study. We simply do not know what would have happened had the big caffeine-heads had cut down their consumption. You simply have no real control group.

Then the elephant joins the gorilla. Who died? A half kilo is not likely to be life threatening, is it? It’s not going to make you into a barge-arse. It’s extremely unlikely to make you keel over with a coronary.

‘…complete avoidance…might actually be advisable…’ my arse. Complete twaddle with no basis at all. I’m surprised at this being a Scandinavian bit of work. The Scandies are unusually skilled at epidemiology. The NIPH should go to an ashram to ponder their legion failings.

*My mum had a 40 a day habit, and all four of us weighed in at a healthy seven and a bit pounds.