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First-of-its-kind Italian school study finds high levels of prenatal alcohol exposure

  • Most studies of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) have been linked to heavy and/or binge drinking, especially in minority and poor populations.
  • Popular thought contends that drinking in Western Europe is more moderate than it is in the U.S.
  • New findings indicate that drinking levels among some women in Italy are similar to those of high-risk drinkers in the new world, reflected in coexisting levels of FAS and FASD.
Alcohol consumption in Western Europe is generally considered to be more moderate in nature daily, and with meals than it is in other countries such as the United States. New research indicates that this may be an "urban myth," and that drinking levels in Italy as measured by the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Italian primary schools are just as high as they are in the new world.

Results are published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Both human and animal studies have shown that heavy and binge drinking are the most highly associated with FAS damage," said Philip A. May, professor of sociology, and family and community medicine, at The University of New Mexico. "A common perception is that daily drinking with meals is less damaging to the fetus, and that this drinking pattern is the norm in Western Europe. While we have still not untangled or answered this relationship, our study results do show that there are individuals in Italy who drink heavily enough to produce a rate of FAS which needs our attention." May, also an epidemiologist, is the study's corresponding author.

"Prior to this study," said Robert J. Sokol, distinguished professor of obstetrics and gynecology and Director of the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development at Wayne State University, "I don't believe there was a good number for prevalence of FAS in Italy. This
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27-Aug-2006


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