PROBLEM: The National Institutes of Health, along with most organizations in positions of authority, "strongly urge" pregnant woman to abstain from consuming alcohol. Heavy drinking during pregnancy is known to cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), although the effects of minimal to moderate consumption -- and what would even constitute "moderate" -- are less clear.
- Drivers Can't Concentrate on Turning Left While Talking on the Phone
- Our Cholesterol Levels Are Highest in Winter
- Mummies Have Atherosclerosis, Too
METHODOLOGY: One measure of a child's neurodevelopment, which could potentially be impacted by fetal exposure to alcohol, is his or her ability to balance. Researchers at the University of Bristol looked at the ability of 7,000 10-year-olds to: walk across a balance beam; stand still, heel to toe, on the beam for 20 seconds with their eyes open and then closed; and do the same on one leg.
The children were all born in the early nineties; halfway through pregnancy, their mothers had been asked about their current alcohol consumption, as well as about how much they used to drink before they became pregnant. The researchers compared this to the children's performance on the balance test 10 years later, controlling for maternal age, smoking behavior, and caffeine consumption, and for less obvious measures like how often the father drank alcohol (which animal models suggest might be important to fetal health).