BACKGROUND: There is substantial debate as to whether moderate alcohol use during pregnancy could have subtle but important effects on offspring, by impairing later cognitive function and thus school performance. The authors aimed to investigate the unconfounded effect of moderately increased prenatal alcohol exposure on cognitive/educational performance.

METHODS: We used mother-offspring pairs participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and performed both conventional observational analyses and Mendelian randomization using an ADH1B variant (rs1229984) associated with reduced alcohol consumption. Women of White European origin with genotype and self-reported prenatal alcohol consumption, whose offspring's IQ score had been assessed in clinic (N = 4061 pairs) or Key Stage 2 (KS2) academic achievement score was available through linkage to the National Pupil Database (N = 6268), contributed to the analyses.

RESULTS: Women reporting moderate drinking before and during early pregnancy were relatively affluent compared with women reporting lighter drinking, and their children had higher KS2 and IQ scores. In contrast, children whose mothers' genotype predisposes to lower consumption or abstinence during early pregnancy had higher KS2 scores (mean difference +1.7, 95% confidence interval +0.4, +3.0) than children of mothers whose genotype predisposed to heavier drinking, after adjustment for population stratification.

CONCLUSIONS: Better offspring cognitive/educational outcomes observed in association with prenatal alcohol exposure presumably reflected residual confounding by factors associated with social position and maternal education. The unconfounded Mendelian randomization estimates suggest a small but potentially important detrimental effect of small increases in prenatal alcohol exposure, at least on educational outcomes.

Published in Pregnant Women
BACKGROUND: Various human and animal studies suggest that peak alcohol exposure during a binge episode, rather than total alcohol exposure, may determine fetal development. Research about the impact of binge drinking on birth outcomes is sparse and inconclusive. Data from the Born in Bradford cohort study were used to explore the impact of binge drinking on birth outcomes. METHODS: Interview-administered questionnaire data about the lifestyle and social characteristics of 10 851 pregnancies were linked to maternity and birth data. The impact of self-reported binge drinking (5 units: 40 g of pure alcohol) on two birth outcomes (small for gestational age (SGA) and preterm birth (<37 weeks)) was assessed using multivariate logistic regression models, while adjusting for confounders. RESULTS: The percentage of women classified as binge drinkers fell from 24.5% before pregnancy to 9% during the first trimester and 3.1% during the second trimester. There was a significant association between SGA birth and binge drinking (all categories combined; OR 1.68, 95% CI 1.15 to 2.47, p=0.01). No association was observed between moderate drinking and either birth outcome, or between binge drinking and preterm birth. CONCLUSIONS: Binge drinking during the second trimester of pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of SGA birth. No association was found between any level of alcohol consumption and premature birth. This work supports previous research showing no association between SGA and low-alcohol exposure but adds to evidence of a dose-response relationship with significant risks observed at binge drinking levels
Published in Pregnant Women

BACKGROUND: A novel approach to derive a threshold dose with respect to alcohol-related harm, the benchmark dose (BMD) methodology, is introduced to provide a basis for evidence-based drinking guidelines. This study is the first to calculate a BMD for alcohol exposure using epidemiological cohort data. With this BMD we will be able to calculate the margin of exposure (MOE) for alcohol consumption, which can be used for comparative risk assessment and applied to setting public health policy.

METHODS: Benchmark dose-response modelling of epidemiological data gathered during a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of alcohol consumption as a risk factor for liver cirrhosis morbidity and mortality.

RESULTS: For a benchmark response (BMR) of 1.5%, the resulting BMD values were 30.9 g/day for males and 29.7 g/day for females; the corresponding lower one-sided confidence values were 25.7 and 27.2 g/day, respectively. The intake scenario for the Canadian population resulted in an MOE of 1.23. Intake scenarios for individuals as based on the Canadian drinking guidelines led to MOE values between 0.96 and 1.91. Using an uncertainty factor of 10, the acceptable daily intake for alcohol would be 2.6 g/day.

CONCLUSIONS: The BMD approach was feasible in developing evidence-based guidelines for low-risk drinking. As our calculated MOEs result around unity (i.e. 1) for moderate drinking, it is evident that the current guidelines correspond very well to low risk on the dose-response curve. The BMD methodology therefore validates current guidelines. The results again highlight the health risk associated with alcohol consumption.

Published in Liver Disease




BACKGROUND: Little is known about the prevalence and risk factors of alcohol problems among older people (especially those aged 75 years and more). The aims of this study were to report alcohol consumption patterns and to determine their association with socio-demographic variables and health characteristics. METHOD: 3224 non-demented subjects aged 75 and over and attending general practitioners (GPs) (n = 138) in an urban area of Germany were studied by structured clinical interviews including detailed assessment of alcohol consumption patterns distinguishing between abstainers, moderate drinkers and at-risk drinkers (>20 g of alcohol for women and >30 g of alcohol for men). RESULTS: A high proportion (50.1%) of the sample were abstainers, 43.4% were moderate drinkers. The prevalence of at-risk alcohol consumption was 6.5% (95% CI 5.6-7.4). Rates were significantly higher for men (12.1%; 95% CI 10.2-14.0) compared to women (3.6%; 95% CI 2.8-4.4). After full adjustment for confounding variables we found that compared to moderate drinking abstaining from alcohol was significantly associated with female gender, lower education, and mobility impairment. Compared to moderate drinking at-risk drinking was significantly higher among men, individuals with a liver disease, and current smokers. CONCLUSIONS: Multivariate analysis revealed that, apart from liver disease, at-risk drinking in a non-demented population aged 75 and over was associated with relatively good physical and mental health. Nevertheless, public prevention measures should focus on at-risk drinkers to make them aware of potential risks of high alcohol consumption in old age.




Published in General Health


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