26 August 2022 In General Health

BACKGROUND: The health risks associated with moderate alcohol consumption continue to be debated. Small amounts of alcohol might lower the risk of some health outcomes but increase the risk of others, suggesting that the overall risk depends, in part, on background disease rates, which vary by region, age, sex, and year.

METHODS: For this analysis, we constructed burden-weighted dose-response relative risk curves across 22 health outcomes to estimate the theoretical minimum risk exposure level (TMREL) and non-drinker equivalence (NDE), the consumption level at which the health risk is equivalent to that of a non-drinker, using disease rates from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2020 for 21 regions, including 204 countries and territories, by 5-year age group, sex, and year for individuals aged 15-95 years and older from 1990 to 2020. Based on the NDE, we quantified the population consuming harmful amounts of alcohol.

FINDINGS: The burden-weighted relative risk curves for alcohol use varied by region and age. Among individuals aged 15-39 years in 2020, the TMREL varied between 0 (95% uncertainty interval 0-0) and 0·603 (0·400-1·00) standard drinks per day, and the NDE varied between 0·002 (0-0) and 1·75 (0·698-4·30) standard drinks per day. Among individuals aged 40 years and older, the burden-weighted relative risk curve was J-shaped for all regions, with a 2020 TMREL that ranged from 0·114 (0-0·403) to 1·87 (0·500-3·30) standard drinks per day and an NDE that ranged between 0·193 (0-0·900) and 6·94 (3·40-8·30) standard drinks per day. Among individuals consuming harmful amounts of alcohol in 2020, 59·1% (54·3-65·4) were aged 15-39 years and 76·9% (73·0-81·3) were male.

INTERPRETATION: There is strong evidence to support recommendations on alcohol consumption varying by age and location. Stronger interventions, particularly those tailored towards younger individuals, are needed to reduce the substantial global health loss attributable to alcohol. FUNDING: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

06 May 2014 In Pregnant Women

OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of low to moderate maternal alcohol consumption and binge drinking in early pregnancy on behaviour in children at the age of 5 years.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Neuropsychological testing in four Danish cities, 2003-2008.

POPULATION: A total of 1628 women and their children sampled from the Danish National Birth Cohort.

METHODS: Participants were sampled based on maternal alcohol drinking patterns during early pregnancy. When the children were 5 years of age the parent and teacher versions of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) were completed by the mothers and a preschool teacher, respectively. The full statistical model included the following potential confounding factors: maternal binge drinking or low to moderate alcohol consumption, respectively; parental education; maternal IQ; prenatal maternal smoking; the child's age at testing; the child's gender; maternal age; parity; maternal marital status; family home environment; postnatal parental smoking; prepregnancy maternal body mass index (BMI); and the child's health status.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Behaviour among children assessed by the SDQ parent and teacher forms.

RESULTS: Adjusted for all potential confounding factors, no statistically significant associations were observed between maternal low to moderate average weekly alcohol consumption and SDQ behavioural scores (OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.5-2.3; OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.6-2.1 for the total difficulties scores) or between binge drinking and SDQ behavioural scores (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.8-1.7; OR 0.8, 95% CI 0.6-1.2).

CONCLUSION: This study observed no consistent effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption or binge drinking in early pregnancy on offspring behaviour at the age of 5 years.

06 May 2014 In Pregnant Women

OBJECTIVE: This study examines the relationships between the dose, pattern, and timing of prenatal alcohol exposure and achievement in reading, writing, spelling, and numeracy in children aged 8 to 9 years.

METHODS: Data from a randomly selected, population-based birth cohort of infants born to non-Indigenous women in Western Australia between 1995 and 1997 (n = 4714) (Randomly Ascertained Sample of Children born in Australia's Largest State Study cohort) were linked to the Western Australian Midwives' Notification System and the Western Australian Literacy and Numeracy Assessment statewide education testing program. The records for 86% (n = 4056) of the cohort were successfully linked with education records when the children were aged 8 to 9 years. The associations between prenatal alcohol exposure and achievement of national benchmarks in school numeracy, reading, spelling, and writing tests and nonattendance for the tests was examined. Logistic regression was used to generate adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), adjusting for potential confounding factors. The referent group included children of mothers who previously drank alcohol but who abstained during pregnancy.

RESULTS: Children were twice as likely not to achieve the benchmark for reading after heavy prenatal alcohol exposure during the first trimester (aOR 2.26; 95% CI 1.10-4.65) and for writing when exposed to occasional binge drinking in late pregnancy (aOR 2.35; 95% CI 1.04-5.43). Low-moderate prenatal alcohol exposure was not associated with academic underachievement.

CONCLUSIONS: The type of learning problems expressed depends on the dose, pattern, and timing of prenatal alcohol exposure.

06 May 2014 In Pregnant Women

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is currently recognized as the most common known cause of mental retardation, affecting from 1 to 7 per 1000 live-born infants. Individuals with FAS suffer from changes in brain structure, cognitive impairments, and behavior problems. Researchers investigating neuropsychological functioning have identified deficits in learning, memory, executive functioning, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and poor communication and social skills in individuals with FAS and fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Investigators using autopsy and brain imaging methods have identified microcephaly and structural abnormalities in various regions of the brain (including the basal ganglia, corpus callosum, cerebellum, and hippocampus) that may account for the neuropsychological deficits. Results of studies using newer brain imaging and analytic techniques have indicated specific alterations (i.e., displacements in the corpus callosum, increased gray matter density in the perisylvian regions, altered gray matter asymmetry, and disproportionate reductions in the frontal lobes) in the brains of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol, and their relations with brain function. Future research, including using animal models, could help inform our knowledge of brain-behavior relations in the context of prenatal alcohol exposure, and assist with early identification and intervention.

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