23 July 2015 In Pregnant Women

BACKGROUND: It is now well accepted in pediatrics and obstetrics that prenatal alcohol is a teratogenic agent and the primary causative factor underlying fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), although for the majority of the 20th century that knowledge was either unknown or ignored. At least 2 factors contributed to the delay in recognizing alcohol's role in teratogenicity: the rejection of earlier evidence pertaining to alcohol and pregnancy following the repeal of Prohibition in the United States, Canada, and several European countries; and misinterpretation of earlier research findings in a eugenic rather than toxicological context. The pervasive belief held well into the 1970s that there was no risk to either mother or fetus from prenatal alcohol posed a major challenge to changing physician and public attitudes on alcohol and pregnancy. This review provides insight on key events that occurred in changing physician and public understanding of the risks posed by prenatal alcohol use in pregnancy.

METHODS: Historical review of events primarily in the U.S. federal government, found in referenced documents.

RESULTS: The transition in physician and public understanding of the risks posed by prenatal alcohol use was aided by the existence of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) which was created in 1971. This government agency was able to support research on alcohol and pregnancy immediately following the 1973 published clinical reports calling attention to a proposed fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). These early research studies provided the foundation for the first government health advisory on alcohol and pregnancy, issued by NIAAA in 1977. Subsequently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used this new knowledge on FAS in their effort to add alcoholic beverages to the range of products with ingredient and consumer information labeling. The ensuing hearings and actions resulted in a new health advisory under the auspices of the Surgeon General, encouraging avoidance of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. In subsequent years, Congressional attention to the FAS issue resulted in the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Law.

CONCLUSIONS: The pace at which understanding of the risks of prenatal alcohol moved forward from a total misunderstanding to acceptance was aided by both the efforts of the NIAAA in its support of research, and the FDA in its efforts to improve consumer information. Today, many women in the United States as well as other countries continue to ignore advisories on avoiding alcohol consumption in pregnancy, emphasizing the need for persistence in education on these health risks.

11 May 2015 In Liver Disease

BACKGROUND: Alcohol abuse represents the most common cause of liver disease in the Western countries. Pre-clinical and clinical studies showed that alcohol consumption affects amount and composition of gut microbiota. Moreover, gut flora plays an important role in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver injury.

AIM: To review the relationship between alcohol administration and changes on gut microbiota, its involvement in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease, and how gut microbiota modulation could be a target for the treatment of alcoholic liver disease.

METHODS: Articles were identified using the PubMed database with the search terms 'Alcohol', 'Gut Microbiota', 'Alcoholic liver disease', 'Probiotic', 'Prebiotic', 'Symbiotic' and 'Antibiotic'. English-language articles were screened for relevance. Full review of publications for the relevant studies was conducted, including additional publications that were identified from individual article reference lists.

RESULTS: Alcohol abuse induces changes in the composition of gut microbiota, although the exact mechanism for this alteration is not well known. The translocation of bacterial products into the portal blood appears to play a key role in alcohol-induced liver damage. Several studies show that the modulation of gut microbiota seem to be a promising strategy to reduce alcohol-induced liver injury.

CONCLUSIONS: Further studies are needed to better understand the relationship between alcohol administration and changes in gut microbiota, and its involvement in alcoholic liver disease. Moreover larger studies are needed to confirm the preliminary results on the therapeutic effects of gut microbiota modulation.

Underage drinking is a significant problem in the US. It is responsible for several thousand mortalities and fatalities each year, both among minors and other members of society. Additionally, underage alcohol consumption produces a severe economic burden in the US. Introduction to alcohol in youth poses serious long-term risks for adolescents, including occupational, educational, and psychosocial impairments, and increases the risk for developing alcohol abuse disorders in adulthood. In order to address and mitigate this problem, the US has set a minimum age drinking law of 21 in all 50 states, and has implemented several supplementary laws limiting the possession and consumption of alcohol. Though these laws have successfully reduced underage drinking, several additional strategies are noteworthy, including preventative and intervention efforts incorporating environmental, individual, communal, and parental factors. The following literature review describes these concepts as they relate to underage drinking laws in the US. Directions for future research, interventions, and ongoing challenges related to the minimum drinking age in the US are also discussed.

08 April 2015 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND: Documenting changes in alcohol consumption is critical for assessing future health service and alcohol treatment needs, evaluating efforts to modify drinking behavior and understanding the impact of shifting demographics and social norms. For the period since 2000, published data on drinking trends have been scarce and inconsistent.

METHODS: Using data from two large, nationally representative surveys of U.S. adults (2001-2002 and 2012-2013) that contained virtually identical questions on consumption, we assessed differences by period in the prevalence of drinking, volume of intake, frequency of drinking and prevalence of >/=monthly heavy episodic drinking (HED) and determined whether changes in consumption were consistent across beverage types and in population subgroups.

RESULTS: Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, the prevalence of drinking increased, as did volume and frequency of drinking and prevalence of >/=monthly HED among drinkers. Increases were greater for women than men for all measures and smaller among the formerly married for consumption among drinkers. The increase in overall drinking prevalence was magnified among all race-ethnic minorities, whereas the increase in >/=monthly HED was magnified only among Blacks (all relative to Whites).

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings are suggestive of a "wetter" drinking climate in 2012-2013 than in 2001-2002, indicating the need for continued and expanded efforts to prevent chronic and episodic heavy alcohol consumption. Given the across-the-board increases in alcohol consumption in recent years, policy efforts that address drinking at the population level are supported, even if specific drinking behaviors and subgroups of drinkers are additionally targeted for individualized approaches.

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