Caffeine shown to have long-term benefits for premature babies

Few coffee addicts would doubt the merits of their daily dose of caffeine. But here’s another reason, it’s good for humanity.

For many decades the stimulant has been helping babies as the go-to drug to encourage breathing in infants born very prematurely, by stimulating the brain.

Meredith Capp and her 13-year-old twins Sophie and Tilly, who were born 15 weeks premature.

SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link Meredith Capp and her 13-year-old twins Sophie and Tilly, who were born 15 weeks premature. Photo: Eddie Jim

Now fresh Australian research from a longitudinal study has concluded the treatment could also deliver unexpected long-term benefits to infants as they grow up, including better co-ordination as children.

The findings stem from a research project that began 17 years ago and saw more than 2000 premature babies born across the globe given caffeine to treat breathing problems or, alternatively, a placebo.

Sophie Capp, who along with her sister Tilly, was born 15 weeks premature.

SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link Sophie Capp, who along with her sister Tilly, was born 15 weeks premature. Photo: Bryan Charlton

The children given the drug were administered five milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight a day, over about five weeks.

It is a tiny amount, but when considering the pre-term babies had an average weight at birth of about one kilogram, it probably equates to two to three shots of regular coffee when compared to adult weight and consumption.

Researchers based at the Royal Women’s Hospital recently assessed 142 children involved in the original study, at age 11, and found some significant long-term benefits stemming from their caffeine treatments.

Only about 20 per cent of the children originally treated with caffeine had reduced air flow rates in their…

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