Drinking at conception ups diabetes risk for baby, study finds

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Drinking habits of women, specifically at the time of conception, are said to have a direct impact on their babies’ risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity in early middle age, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at the University of Queensland have established that the equivalent of five standard drinks consumed around the time of conception altered the development of the foetus.

School of Biomedical Sciences scientist Associate Professor Karen Moritz and PhD student Ms Emelie Gardebjer based their study into how events – particularly alcohol consumption – before and during pregnancy affect the long-term health of offspring. Their findings were startling as it showed that alcohol consumption somehow causes changes to the embryo.

Dr Moritz added that anything that affects foetal development has the potential of altering long term programming thereby increasing the risk and susceptibility to disease later in life.

Researchers found, based on rat-model studies, the risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes in early middle age dramatically increased.

“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”, Dr Moritz said.

“Although most women stop drinking once they discover they are pregnant, a significant proportion are consuming alcohol at the time of conception, before they even know,” she said.

“Our future research will be focusing on the possibility of administering preventative interventions.

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