The safety of drinking alcohol during pregnancy has long been a subject of debate. Some studies suggest light drinking is okay. Findings of a new research, however, lean on the side that pregnant women should avoid any amount of booze.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is among the top causes of intellectual disability worldwide, and is associated with a range of neurological issues, which include ADHD. Current theory links cognitive impairment of children to the mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

In the study published in the journal Chaos on April 2, researchers used a brain imaging technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to analyze brain signals.

They found that teenagers who were exposed to alcohol while they were developing in the womb exhibited altered brain connections consistent with impaired cognitive performance.

Earlier studies that attempted to study the circuits of the brain of affected individuals were hampered by challenges in drawing conclusion from MEG data, but the researchers used a computer technique called Cortical Start Spatio-Temporal multidipole analysis.

It identified the areas of the brain that were active in 19 FASD patients and 21 individuals without FASD when they were in the MEG machine. The approach revealed the areas of the brain that showed impaired connectivity among FASD patients.

Those who were exposed to alcohol in the womb tend to have connection issues in their corpus callosum, which connects the left and right halves of the brain. Deficits in this area have been identified in people with depression, autism, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and abnormalities in sensation.

No Safe Amount Of Alcohol During Pregnancy

Study researcher Lin Gao, from Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, and colleagues said their work provides evidence that exposure to alcohol in the womb places children at risk of impaired cognitive abilities and other secondary factors. The study also shows there is no safe amount or safe stages during pregnancy to consume alcohol.

"Our study involving experimental data collected from teenage subjects, combined with mathematical modeling, shows that there is no safe amount or safe stages during pregnancy for alcohol consumption," the researchers wrote in their study.

"Based on our findings, we support the recommendation of no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy."

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