Even moderate drinking may prove detrimental for pregnant women. According to a recent study, pregnant women are advised to stay away from alcohol, as it might alter the DNA of their babies. The study was published in the journal 'Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research'. Many previous studies such as the study done by Rutgers University found that binge and heavy drinking may trigger a long-lasting genetic change in adults.
"Our findings may make it easier to test children for prenatal alcohol exposure and enable early diagnosis and intervention that can help improve the children's lives," said lead author Dipak K. Sarkar, a Distinguished Professor and director of the Endocrine Program in the Program in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
The team found changes in two genes - POMC, which regulates the stress-response system, and PER2, which influences the body's biological clock; in women who drank moderate to high levels of alcohol during pregnancy and in children who had been exposed to those levels of alcohol in the womb.
Four or more drinks on at least five occasions in a month is classified as heavy drinking, whereas moderate drinking in women is about three drinks per occasion.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can include physical or intellectual disabilities as well as behavioural and learning problems. While there is no cure, early intervention treatment services can improve a child's development, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the researchers, infants exposed to alcohol in the womb - which passes from the mother's blood through the umbilical cord - happened to have increased levels of cortisol, a potentially harmful stress hormone that can suppress the immune system.