Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mothers who drink moderately have smarter kids (?)

It's nice to see the official wisdom getting a kick in the pants but this analysis says that the report below is misleading. I noted particularly: "Compared with abstainers they also found that ‘light’ drinkers were more likely to be better educated, from higher income households and were less likely to have smoked during pregnancy". So if there were any real effects they were likely to be socio-economic rather than due to alcohol. I would likely to look more closely at the study but I could not find it online where it is said to be. The full citation of the study appears to be: Kelly Y, Sacker A, Gray R, Kelly J, Wolke D, Quigley MA. "Light drinking in pregnancy, a risk for behavioural problems and cognitive deficits at 3 years of age?"

Women who drink alcohol occasionally during pregnancy do not harm their unborn babies – in fact their children may even benefit, a large study suggests. Research involving more than 12,000 children showed that mothers who drank lightly during pregnancy – defined as one to two units, or a single drink a week – did not increase the risk of having babies with mental impairment or behavioural problems. Rather, children born to light drinkers were found to be less likely to have problems and peformed better in some tests compared with offspring of mothers who did not drink at all.

The findings run counter to government guidance, which advises pregnant women and those trying to conceive to cut out alcohol altogether. The latest study is the most comprehensive examination so far of the effects of light drinking by expectant mothers. However, doctors reiterated warnings last night of the risks of heavy drinking during pregnancy, and expressed concern that women should not be “lulled into a false sense of security”.

Researchers at University College London examined data on the behaviour and mental skills of 12,495 three-year-olds. The data, taken from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, showed that boys born to mothers who drank lightly were 40 per cent less likely to have conduct problems than those whose mothers abstained, and were 30 per cent less likely to be hyperactive. They also had higher scores on tests of vocabulary and whether they could identify colours, shapes, letters and numbers compared with those born to mothers who did not drink.

Girls born to light drinkers were 30 per cent less likely to have emotional symptoms and peer problems compared with those born to abstainers, although these differences could partially be explained by family and social backgrounds, the researchers said. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the medical watchdog, said last year that there was no consistent evidence to show whether a small amount of alcohol damaged unborn children. In guidance issued in March, however, NICE advised that women should not drink when trying to conceive or during the first three months of pregnancy.

The Department of Health, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Medical Association have emphasised that the safest option was not to drink alcohol at all while pregnant.

Doctors have long suspected an association between foetal abnormality and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Research showing a link with stillbirths first appeared in 1899. Foetal alcohol syndrome is diagnosed in about 6,000 children a year. The children, born to women who drink excessively, are short, hyperactive and have small eyes and no indentation between their nose and thin upper lip.

Yvonne Kelly, who led the UCL study, published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, said that “very few studies have considered whether light drinking is a risk”. She said that the research highlighted “an inconsistency in policy around the issue”.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said that official advice was clear. “If they do choose to drink, to protect the baby they should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk,” he added. Siobhan Freegard, the co-founder of, a mothering advice forum, said: “While the advice and guidance on alcohol does seem to keep changing, none of it is conclusive. And so most of us seem to feel that the ‘occasional glass doesn’t hurt’ approach works for us.”


Does strenuous excercise cut breast cancer risk in over-60s?

Less than 5% of the sample got cancer so we are looking only at degrees of rarity here and the intergroup difference is not large. In other words, many of those who got cancer DID do strenuous excercise. Coupled with earlier findings that contradict it, I think we have to suspect that this is just a data dredging report. The journal abstract is here. Note that this is another extreme quintile finding. In other words, the researchers had to discard 3/5 of their data to produce their findings! Rather ludicrous, really

Getting stuck into the housework or doing salsa dancing late in life could significantly cut a woman's risk of breast cancer, research shows. Women who regularly carry out strenuous exercise in their 60s are 30 per cent less likely to develop the disease. The finding adds to mounting evidence about the power of exercise to stave off the disease which, as Britain's most common cancer, kills more than 1,000 women a month.

The U.S. government researchers made the link after tracking the health of more than 32,000 women for 11 years. At the start of the study, the women, who had an average age of 61, were asked to list how much gentle and strenuous exercise they did. Gentle exercise included light housework, such as hoovering, washing clothes and mowing the lawn, as well as walking and hiking, bowling, golf and cycling. Examples of vigorous activity included heavy housework such as scrubbing floors, digging the garden and chopping wood. Heavy exercise, such as running, fast jogging, competitive tennis and fast dancing also fitted the bill.

Eleven years later, 1,506 of the women had developed breast cancer, the journal Breast Cancer Research reports. Analysis showed that vigorous, but not gentle, exercise cut the risk of the disease - though only in women who weren't overweight. The researchers, from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, said this showed that gentle exercise was not enough to keep the disease at bay. They added that the large number of women involved and the length of the study increased the reliability of the results.

However, other studies have found that gentle exercise can be valuable in warding off breast cancer. A six-year study of more than 20,000 European women concluded that hoovering, dusting and other light domestic chores cut the risk of the disease by almost 30 per cent. Those researchers concluded that regular gentle exercise may be better for health than occasional heavy exercise.

Maggie Alexander, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: 'There is still much to be learned about what type of activity you should do and how often in order to lower your breast cancer risk. 'However, we do know that regular exercise can help prevent weight gain and obesity, both of which are known to increase breast cancer risk. [Rubbish. Fat women get LESS breast cancer] 'We encourage all women to lead a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and limiting alcohol intake.'

Henry Scowcroft, of Cancer Research UK, said: 'Clearly, we need to do more work to find out exactly how exercise affects breast cancer risk, so that women can make informed decisions about their lifestyle.'


1 comment:

BeFit-Mom said...

No pregnant women should drink alcohol, even lightly.

Fetal cells divide rapidly and alcohol at any level kills brain cells. While the fetal brain will be able to "rewire" after an alcohol exposure, what is lost after this repair job can not be measured. The original, and best, neural pathways are lost forever.

Additionally, the fetal liver, which will try to filter the alcohol out of its blood stream is tiny. When an adult women feels the effect from one glass of wine, it is because her liver can not filter the alcohol fast enough. The level of alcohol in the mother's blood stream is the same as in the fetal blood stream. One glass of wine will totally overwhelm the tiny, and still developing, fetal liver. One exposure of this level is the equivalent of of numerous maternal exposures.

Alcohol is a toxin. Pregnant women should avoid all toxins throughout pregnancy and breast feeding to protect the long term health of their children.