Alcohol During Pregnancy Could Have “Transgenerational Effects” Study Says, But Don’t Freak Out

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Most pregnant women know that drinking while pregnant can lead to serious consequences for their baby’s health, but new evidence suggests that their grandchildren may also be at risk. A recent study appears to show that alcohol during pregnancy could have “transgenerational effects,” meaning that it might impact not only the child who was actually exposed to alcohol, but also that child’s descendants, for generations to come.

Previous studies have demonstrated the connection between prenatal ethanol exposure (PrEE) and neurological problems, but this study, led by University of California, Riverside psychology professor Kelly Huffman, sought to determine if those problems could then be inherited. PrEE was used to breed a generation of mice that exhibited “atypical gene expression, abnormal development of the neural network within the neocortex and behavioral deficits,” the expected result. The second generation also showed characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which was no surprise, because the genetic material they’re made from was exposed to alcohol when it was part of the first generation. But the third generation, which was never exposed to alcohol either directly or indirectly, still had significantly lower body weight and brain size compared to the control group, as well as “anxiety-like, depressive-like behaviors and sensory-motor deficits,” according to Huffman.

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