OBJECTIVES: To determine the effects of low-to-moderate levels of maternal alcohol consumption in pregnancy on pregnancy and longer-term offspring outcomes.

SEARCH STRATEGY: Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Psych info from inception to 11 July 2016.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Prospective observational studies, negative control and quasi experimental studies of pregnant women estimating effects of light drinking in pregnancy (</=32 g/week) versus abstaining. Pregnancy outcomes such as birth weight and features of fetal alcohol syndrome were examined.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: One reviewer extracted data and another checked extracted data. Random effects meta-analyses were performed where applicable, and a narrative summary of findings was carried out otherwise.

MAIN RESULTS: 24 cohort and two quasi experimental studies were included. With the exception of birth size and gestational age, there was insufficient data to meta-analyse or make robust conclusions. Odds of small for gestational age (SGA) and preterm birth were higher for babies whose mothers consumed up to 32 g/week versus none, but estimates for preterm birth were also compatible with no association: summary OR 1.08, 95% CI (1.02 to 1.14), I2 0%, (seven studies, all estimates were adjusted) OR 1.10, 95% CI (0.95 to 1.28), I2 60%, (nine studies, includes one unadjusted estimates), respectively. The earliest time points of exposure were used in the analysis.

CONCLUSION: Evidence of the effects of drinking </=32 g/week in pregnancy is sparse. As there was some evidence that even light prenatal alcohol consumption is associated with being SGA and preterm delivery, guidance could advise abstention as a precautionary principle but should explain the paucity of evidence.

Published in Pregnant Women

INTRODUCTION: The benefits of alcohol consumption for cardiovascular and metabolic health may have been overstated due to inappropriate comparisons with abstainers and inadequate control for confounding factors including physical activity and mental health. We examined alcohol consumption and cardio-metabolic health in a cohort of young Australian adults overcoming these limitations.

METHODS: Cross-sectional data of a cohort of 2200 participants (age range 25-36 years) from the 2004-06 Childhood Determinants of Adult Health were used. Alcohol consumption was assessed from questionnaire and cardio-metabolic risk factors were measured in clinics. Linear and log binomial regression were used to examine total alcohol consumption (categories: none 0 g/day; light >0-10 g/day [reference]; moderate >10-20 g/day; heavy >20-30 g/day; very heavy >30 g/day) against dichotomous metabolic syndrome and its components: waist circumference, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose. Covariates included socio-demographics, smoking, diet, physical activity, fitness, depression and anxiety.

RESULTS: Of the 2220 participants (48% males, mean (standard deviation) age 29.5 (2.5) years), most were classified in the 'light drinking' group (54.2%), less were in the 'non-drinking' (13.2%), 'heavy' (5.2%) or 'very heavy' (5.5%) drinking groups. Only moderate drinking was associated with a significantly lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome (prevalence ratio = 0.64, p < 0.05) compared with light drinking. Higher levels of alcohol consumption were associated with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (beta = 0.05, ptrend < 0.001). Very heavy compared to light drinkers had higher systolic (beta = 3.01 mm Hg, p < 0.01) and diastolic (beta = 2.07 mm Hg, p < 0.05) blood pressure.

CONCLUSION: Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of MetS, and more favourable levels of lipids but not glucose or blood pressure even when compared to light consumption and with account for a range of confounding factors.

Published in Cardiovascular System

BACKGROUND The relationship between alcohol consumption and metabolic syndrome (MetS) remains controversial. This study investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and MetS components and prevalence.

MATERIAL AND METHODS We analyzed 10 037 subjects (3076 MetS and 6961 non-MetS) in a community-based cohort. MetS was defined according to the ATP III Guidelines. Subjects were divided according to amount of alcohol consumption; non-drinker, very light (0.1-5.0 g/day), light (5.1-15.0 g/day), moderate (15.1-30.0 g/day), and heavy drinker (>30 g/day). Multiple logistic regression models were performed to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and confidence intervals (CIs). The analyses were performed in men and women separately. SPSS statistical software was used for analyses.

RESULTS The prevalence of MetS in both males and females was associated with alcohol drinking status (p<0.0001). Amount of alcohol consumption (0.1-5.0 g/day) was significantly associated with lower prevalence of MetS in both genders compared to non-drinkers. Amount of alcohol consumption (>30.0 g/day) did not show a significant association with prevalence of MetS. However, alcohol consumption (>30.0 g/day) showed an association with glucose and HDL cholesterol among the components of MetS.

CONCLUSIONS Our results indicate that alcohol drinking (0.1-5.0 g/day) contributed to decrease prevalence of MetS and components, including triglyceride and HDL cholesterol.

Published in Diabetes

BACKGROUND: Alcohol use during pregnancy is the direct cause of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). We aimed to estimate the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and FAS in the general population and, by linking these two indicators, estimate the number of pregnant women that consumed alcohol during pregnancy per one case of FAS.

METHODS: We began by doing two independent comprehensive systematic literature searches using multiple electronic databases for original quantitative studies that reported the prevalence in the general population of the respective country of alcohol use during pregnancy published from Jan 1, 1984, to June 30, 2014, or the prevalence of FAS published from Nov 1, 1973, to June 30, 2015, in a peer-reviewed journal or scholarly report. Each study on the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy was critically appraised using a checklist for observational studies, and each study on the prevalence of FAS was critically appraised by use of a method specifically designed for systematic reviews addressing questions of prevalence. Studies on the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and/or FAS were omitted if they used a sample population not generalisable to the general population of the respective country, reported a pooled estimate by combining several studies, or were published in iteration. Studies that excluded abstainers were also omitted for the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy. We then did country-specific random-effects meta-analyses to estimate the pooled prevalence of these indicators. For countries with one or no empirical studies, we predicted prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy using fractional response regression modelling and prevalence of FAS using a quotient of the average number of women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy per one case of FAS. We used Monte Carlo simulations to derive confidence intervals for the country-specific point estimates of the prevalence of FAS. We estimated WHO regional and global averages of the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and FAS, weighted by the number of livebirths per country. The review protocols for the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy (CRD42016033835) and FAS (CRD42016033837) are available on PROSPERO.

FINDINGS: Of 23 470 studies identified for the prevalence of alcohol use, 328 studies were retained for systematic review and meta-analysis; the search strategy for the prevalence of FAS yielded 11 110 studies, of which 62 were used in our analysis. The global prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy was estimated to be 9.8% (95% CI 8.9-11.1) and the estimated prevalence of FAS in the general population was 14.6 per 10 000 people (95% CI 9.4-23.3). We also estimated that one in every 67 women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy would deliver a child with FAS, which translates to about 119 000 children born with FAS in the world every year.

INTERPRETATION: Alcohol use during pregnancy is common in many countries and as such, FAS is a relatively prevalent alcohol-related birth defect. More effective prevention strategies targeting alcohol use during pregnancy and surveillance of FAS are urgently needed.

FUNDING: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (no external funding was sought).

Published in Pregnant Women
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