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Drinking alcohol at conception increases child’s risk of obesity

Consuming just five alcoholic drinks around the time of conception “dramatically” increases the risk of the child becoming obese later in life, according to research.

Drinking five alcohol drinks around the time of conception alters the development of the foetus

The study was undertaken by the University of Queensland, Australia, and published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

It revealed that drinking five alcoholic drinks around the time of conception altered the development of the foetus, causing much higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity for the offspring in middle age.

Researchers fed a chosen group of rats a diet containing alcohol from four days before conception until four days’ gestation, while a separate group of control rats were fed a diet containing no alcohol

At the age of six months, the offspring of the first group of rats showed raised blood sugar levels and decreased insulin sensitivity – indicating diabetes.

Associate Professor, Dr Karen Moritz, stated: “Before the egg implants, before any organs start to develop, alcohol consumption somehow causes changes to the embryo.

“Anything that affects foetal development can cause long-term programming, which means offspring can be born with increased risk and susceptibility to disease later in life.

“Monitoring the offspring of the laboratory rat model, we found the risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes in early middle age dramatically increased.

“The usual risk factors of these two diseases are attributed to poor diet and lack of exercise, but our research showed exposure to alcohol around conception presents a risk similar to following a high-fat diet for a major proportion of life.

“Given many women may drink alcohol while planning a pregnancy, it is crucial to increase public awareness regarding the effects of alcohol consumption around conception on offspring health.”

Earlier this month, a study revealed binge drinking during pregnancy is a “significant public health concern”, even though most women give up once they know they are pregnant.

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