Alcohol consumption at time of conception could increase babys risk of type 2 diabetes

Kurt Wood
Mon, 03 Aug 2015
Alcohol consumption at time of conception could increase babys risk of type 2 diabetes
Drinking alcohol at the time of conception significantly increases a baby's risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to new research.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland, indicates further risks associated with alcohol consumption and pregnancy.

"Before the egg implants, before any organs start to develop, alcohol consumption somehow causes changes to the embryo," said lead researcher Dr. Karen Moritz.

"Anything that effects 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 research suggests a new potential risk factor for type 2 diabetes. There tends to be a misconception that type 2 diabetes is only caused by a combination of preventable lifestyle decisions, such as unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, but research increasingly suggests that the causes can be varied and complex.

For example, a recent study found further evidence that type 2 diabetes can have genetic causes. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is also a common cause of type 2 diabetes.

"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."

The research poses difficult questions, because it does not suggest that the women in question are irresponsible. The majority of women will stop drinking when they discover they are pregnant, but this is a problem that will in most cases occur before the mother even knows she is pregnant.

It is a difficult problem to solve before it occurs. A more realistic strategy would be to find solutions after the foetal changes have taken place.

"Our future research will be focusing on the possibility of administering preventative interventions," said Dr. Moritz.

"One possibility is giving some type of nutrient to the mother, even in later pregnancy, to see if the changes caused by early alcohol exposure can be prevented, and in turn prevent the possible long-term disease outcomes for offspring."

The research was published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
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