Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Does a glass of wine a day harm the foetus?
So ran the headlines in the UK Guardian, and similar newspapers throughout the UK, US and Canadian press. One study, conducted by Little et al at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland caused the furore.

The study offered few statistics, figures or comparisons - just 129 foetuses were observed via one test - a buzzing sound on the abdomen. Through this it was concluded that the foetuses of mothers who drank between five to seven units (8g) of alcohol a week had less of a startle reaction to the noise and were therefore suffering from' some degree of neural dysfunction', although the babies passed physical development tests at birth.

Numerous studies have shown that foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) does not occur in babies born to women who consume between 10 and 20g alcohol a day. The incidence of FAS is extremely low, affecting 1 birth per 10,000 in the US and European figures are approximately 20 times lower than in the US. The UK Department of Health and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concluded in 1997 that there are no ill effects of light consumption, that is 10g alcohol per day, on the foetus.

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