This really bothers me.
My letter to Sarah-Kate Templeton:
Wow.. what a horribly irresponsible piece of journalism.
"Guess what everyone... drinking causes autism, and we have a study to prove it, but we are not going to tell you what is in the study, and no one can check our work but we want you to print it in the newspaper and tell everyone anyway. Trust us... we have presented it in "scientific meetings".
Ms. Templeton, women have been drinking while pregnant for thousands of years. (tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? When was fermentation discovered?) It seems reasonable to assume that if it caused something like autism, people would have discovered, labeled and described autism in the literature long before Kanner did it in the 1930's.
When there is a published study for people to read for them selves and see if there is any merit to the theory, then write about it.
But publishing the headline, "Drinking while pregnant risks autism in babies", when you have no data to actually back up the claim is just wrong.
An equally salient point from Clifford G. Miller of Beckenham, England:
If drinking alcohol whilst pregnant causes autism, why is the autism rate so high in teetotal Utah, USA?
- 1 in 133 Utah children has autism's 3rd highest rate in 14 US states (according to US Centers for Disease Control 9/2/07 - http://unews.utah.edu/p/?r=020807-2)
- Utah 2.5 million population - (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49000.html)
- approx 75% of Utah is Mormon (http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/contact-us/usa-utah)
- approx 49% regular church attenders (http://www.sltrib.com/ci_2886596).
"Latter-day Saints generally adhere strictly to their health code which prohibits the use of tobacco and alcohol. These practices have always shown up in national health data, which consistently rate Utah as having the lowest rates of smoking, alcohol use, lung cancer, etc. The National Institute of Mental Health ranked Utah as the second-lowest U.S" (http://www.adherents.com/largecom/lds_dem.html)
March 23, 2008
Drinking while pregnant risks autism in babies
Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor
Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may be putting their babies at risk of developing autism, according to new research.
The consultant psychiatrist who alerted the medical profession to the finding that drinking while pregnant can give babies a condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has now found that the consumption of alcohol by expecting mothers can also cause autism.
The research is the first to suggest that autism may be triggered by the child’s mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The findings will heighten concern about the increase in alcohol consumption among women of childbearing age.
More than half of all mothers drink alcohol while pregnant, according to the Department of Health. This week the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will issue a new warning about the dangers.
A recent survey showed 8% of women aged 18 to 24 had consumed at least 35 units of alcohol, the equivalent of about 15 glasses of wine, during the previous week. Binge drinking among young women has resulted in the number of alcohol-related deaths in women aged 35 to 54 doubling between 1991 and 2005.
Earlier this year, the British Medical Association warned that the increase in alcohol consumption by young women will be reflected in a rise in drinking during pregnancy and, subsequently, will put more babies at risk of being damaged by alcohol while in the womb.
Raja Mukherjee, consultant psychiatrist at Surrey Borders Partnership NHS trust, has spent the past 18 months examining children who have been damaged by their mother’s drinking during pregnancy and found that a high proportion of them have autism. The research has been presented at scientific meetings.
Mukherjee, who has presented his findings to medical colleagues, declined to discuss them in detail before their publication in a medical journal but said: “Genetic conditions are by far the most common cause of autism but that is not to say that other things cannot cause it, and prenatal alcohol appears, possibly, to be [a cause].
“Unlike genetic conditions, this is 100% preventable.”
Mukherjee has previously warned against any drinking during pregnancy and believes that even low levels of alcohol may endanger babies.
Drinking during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the umbrella term for a range of disorders — from minor anomalies such as low birth weight to severe FAS, the symptoms of which include mental retardation and facial abnormalities such as a short nose.
The number of cases of FAS in Britain has increased in recent years. So far the government and medical bodies have given out conflicting messages about how much alcohol it is safe to drink during pregnancy.
One per cent of British children suffer from autism, according to the Office for National Statistics. Some academics argue that the percentage of children suffering from the disorder is increasing but others say that numbers are up because of better diagnosis.
Although the cause of autism is unknown, many doctors believe some people have a genetic predisposition towards it.
Dr Andrew Wakefield linked autism to the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, but the research was discredited. It led to a fall in immunisation.