Even a Single Drinking Binge May Cause Brain Damage
drink when you're pregnant we've all heard the general warnings,
but exactly how much is too much? Some health experts claim
that expectant mothers can safely consume small amounts of
alcohol (one drink per day) and still deliver a healthy baby,
while others warn of the potential effects of fetal alcohol
syndrome (FAS) impaired growth, learning and coordination
difficulties, and deformed facial features.
According to a study published in the February
issue of Science, even the smallest amount of alcohol
can jeopardize fetal health. Researchers administered a 20%
solution of alcohol to seven-day-old rats in two separate
treatments given two hours apart; a control group was treated
with a saline solution for comparison. Twenty-four hours after
the initial treatment, large numbers of neurons had been deleted
from several major regions of the developing brain in the
group exposed to alcohol.
Although the study involved rats, the authors
are quick to point out that this developmental stage (the
first two weeks of birth in rats) coincides with human fetal
development from the sixth month of pregnancy until birth.
They warn that if a pregnant mother consumes alcohol for even
a few hours in a single drinking episode, she could be putting
her developing fetus at risk for neurological damage. Consult
your team of health care professionals during pregnancy to
ensure the health and safety of your child.
Ikonomidou C, Bittigau P, Ishimaru MJ, et al. Ethanol-induced
neurodegeneration and fetal alcohol syndrome. Science,
Feb. 11, 2000: Vol. 287, pp1056-60.