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Published November 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Even moderate drinking in pregnancy may affect child’s IQ, study finds

LONDON – Women who drink even moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant may risk lowering a child’s intelligence levels, according to a study by British scientists.

By: Reuters, INFORUM

LONDON – Women who drink even moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant may risk lowering a child’s intelligence levels, according to a study by British scientists.

Advice to pregnant women about drinking is contradictory, with some guidelines recommending no alcohol at all and others suggesting the odd drink now and then is safe.

But in a study described as “hugely important” by one expert, researchers using genetic analysis of more than 4,000 mothers and children found that drinking between one and six units of alcohol a week during pregnancy can lead to lower Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scores by the time a child is 8.

“Even at levels of alcohol consumption that are normally considered to be harmless, we can detect differences in childhood IQ which are dependent on the ability of the fetus to clear this alcohol,” said Sarah Lewis of Bristol University, who led the study. “This is evidence that even at these moderate levels, alcohol is influencing fetal brain development.”

This study used genetic data from women and children who were part of another study called the Children of the ’90s study.

Since the individual genetic variations that people have in their DNA are not connected to lifestyle and social factors, this kind of study avoids potential complications.

Most previous studies have used observational evidence, but experts say this can be misleading because, for example, mothers who drink in moderation while pregnant are typically also well educated, have good diets and are unlikely to smoke – all factors linked to higher IQ in children and which could mask any negative effects of alcohol.

A U.S. study published in July found that older, educated women are more likely to drink while pregnant.

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