Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 04:43 pm

A wedding toast or birthday bubbly, if you thought that a glass or two of alcohol for a special occasion was safe during pregnancy, think again…

Even small amounts of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can cause insulin resistance, which increases the likelihood of diabetes.

This is according to research in male rat offspring published in the Journal of Physiology.

The study mimicked ‘special occasion drinking’, such as a birthday party, where a pregnant mother might be encouraged to have one or two alcoholic drinks.

The researchers only gave alcohol to the mother rats on two days during their pregnancy.

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Male rats exposed to this low level of prenatal alcohol showed signs of becoming diabetic at around six months old.

The rats’ blood alcohol concentration only reached 0,05%, and yet their male offspring became almost diabetic, with insulin levels reaching higher than expected to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Why the babies’ gender matters

Another interesting finding was that insulin-resistance was sex-specific, occurring only in the male rats.

There are a couple of potential reasons for this, one being that during pregnancy, the placenta adapts to prenatal stress differently depending on if it’s a male or female foetus, and this can have an impact on foetal growth and development.

The other factor is hormone changes as offspring grow into adulthood. In this case, oestrogen protects against insulin-resistance, and because males don’t have high oestrogen, they don’t experience the same protection.

“Even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful, so if you’re planning on getting pregnant don’t drink. Families, partners and friends should support a woman’s choice not to drink alcohol during pregnancy,” says University of Queensland researcher Lisa Akison, senior author on the study.

“If a woman accidentally becomes pregnant, and unknowingly drinks alcohol during the first part of their pregnancy, the important thing once they know is to stop drinking, have a good diet and take care of themselves throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.”

Source: The Physiological Society via

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