October 11, 2019
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Parental alcohol exposure tied to congenital heart disease risk in children

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Alcohol consumption of would-be parents may be a significant risk factor for the development of congenital heart disease in their subsequent children, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

In a meta-analysis of 55 studies, researchers found that mothers who had alcohol exposure 3 months before pregnancy and the first trimester imparted a greater risk for congenital heart disease in their offspring compared with those who did not have alcohol exposure (OR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.05-1.27). However, there was substantial heterogeneity among the studies (P < .00001; I2 = 74%). Additionally, mothers who had binge drinking experiences during the same time imparted a high risk for congenital heart disease in their children compared with those with no alcohol exposure (OR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.02-1.32).

Moreover, fathers with alcohol exposure also imparted a greater risk for congenital heart disease in offspring compared with those with none (OR = 1.44; 95% CI, 1.19-1.74). Substantial heterogeneity was found in this group as well (P < .00001; I2 = 90%). Additionally, fathers who had binge drinking experiences also imparted higher risk for congenital heart disease in their children (OR = 1.52; 95% CI, 1.2-1.95).

“Binge drinking by would-be parents is a high risk and dangerous behavior that not only may increase the chance of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also greatly damages their own health,” Jiabi Qin, PhD, of the Xiangya School of Public Health at Central South University in Changsha, China, said in a press release. “We observed a gradually rising risk of congenital heart diseases as parental alcohol consumption increased. The relationship was not statistically significant at the lower quantities.”

In other findings, researchers determined that maternal alcohol exposure was not significantly associated with any congenital heart disease phenotype in particular except for tetralogy of Fallot (OR = 1.2; 95% CI, 1.08-1.33). In addition, paternal alcohol exposure before pregnancy was also not associated with any congenital heart disease phenotype, including ventricular septal defect (OR = 1.35; 95% CI, 0.99-1.84) or atrial septal defect (OR = 2.6; 95% CI, 0.85-7.96), according to the researchers.

“For the association between maternal alcohol exposure and risk of congenital heart diseases, one hypothesis is that genetic-level change caused by alcohol exposure may increase the risk of congenital heart diseases,” the researchers wrote. “For the association between paternal alcohol exposure and risk of congenital heart diseases in ospring, there are few studies to explore potential mechanisms.”

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Researchers analyzed 55 studies performed across Asia (53%), North America (27%), Europe (18%) and Oceania (2%) that included 41,747 congenital heart disease cases with 297,587 controls. A random-effects model was used to estimate overall risk; a meta-analysis was performed to determine the dose-response relationship; and a subgroup analysis, sensitivity analysis and Galbraith plot were used to determine potential heterogeneity moderators.

“The underlying mechanisms connecting parental alcohol and congenital heart diseases are uncertain and warrant further research,” Qin said in the release. “Although our analysis has limitations — for example, the type of alcohol was not recorded — it does indicate that men and women planning a family should give up alcohol.” – by Scott Buzby

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.