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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 Jan;29(1):130-40.

Alcohol consumption in pregnant, black women is associated with decreased plasma and erythrocyte docosahexaenoic acid.

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Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.



Inner-city, black women are among those groups that are at higher risk for having infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders that can include life-long neurobehavioral and cognitive impairments. Chronic alcohol consumption can decrease amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid that is essential for optimal infant neural and retinal development in a variety of tissues.


Black women who presented at an inner-city antenatal clinic for their first prenatal visit were recruited into a longitudinal, observational study. Alcohol intake was determined by a structured interview. Participants provided blood specimens and completed food frequency surveys at 24 weeks of gestation, infant delivery, and 3 months postpartum. Fatty acid composition analyses were completed on 307, 260, and 243 for plasma and 278, 261, and 242 erythrocyte specimens at 24 weeks of gestation, delivery, and 3 months postpartum, respectively.


Proportion of drinking days at the first prenatal visit was associated with decreased DHA in plasma and erythrocytes throughout the study. This association was the strongest at 24 weeks of gestation. In addition, an interaction between proportion of drinking days at the time of conception and ounces of absolute alcohol per drinking day at the time of conception was detected and demonstrated that, in daily drinkers, high intakes of alcohol are associated with decreased DHA and arachidonic acid (AA) concentrations in plasma.


Frequent and high intakes of alcohol that have been previously associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are also associated with decreased maternal DHA and AA plasma concentrations. The present findings indicate that maternal DHA deficiency is associated with high-risk drinking and may contribute to the mechanism(s) of alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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