Pregnant Women Addicted to Alcohol Should Take Antioxidants

August 30, 2004

Every year, about a hundred children, who are severely damaged by their mother’s alcohol abuse, are born in Denmark. These children, born with the so called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), suffer from mental retardation, decreased growth, heart failure, striking malformations of their face, arms, and legs, and also suffer cardiac malformations.

Researchers at a centre for alcohol studies at the University of North Carolina now believe that some of these malformations can be avoided if pregnant women with an incontrollable alcohol consumption receive an antioxidant supplement, e.g. vitamin E. The viewpoint is that if the mothers are not capable of holding back – and this, of course, is the exact problem of alcoholics, it would be better to try to reduce the damages rather than making impossible demands.

The information is based on studies with foetal mice who were exposed to alcohol. It turned out that the nervous cells of the foetuses which are easily damaged by alcohol is partly protected by the antioxidant SOD. This indicates that the damages are caused by the formation of so-called free radicals and the researchers at the centre have already established that vitamin E, which is also an antioxidant, reduces these damages.

In the actual study, the mice were born with significantly less malformed limbs when they were protected by SOD. Based on this, the conductor of the study, professor Kathleen K. Sulik claimed that it would be “wonderful” if pregnant women with alcohol problems could be persuaded into taking vitamin supplements.

The number of babies who are born with more discrete alcohol damages is not known. An estimated consumption of only one drink a day can increase the risk of abortion and result in growth retardation of several hundred grams while the baby is still in its mother’s womb.

By: Vitality Council

1. Protection from ethanol-induced limb malformations by the superoxide dismutase/catalase mimetic, EUK-134. Chen SY, Dehart DB, Sulik KK. FASEB J. 2004.
2. Graviditet og alkohol [Pregnancy and alcohol]. Sundhedsstyrelsen 1999.