“Our findings show that in rats, when a mother consumes the equivalent of one glass of wine four times during the pregnancy, her offspring and grand-offspring — up to the third generation — show increased alcohol preference and less sensitivity to alcohol,” said Nicole Cameron from Binghamton University in the US.
For the study, pregnant rats were given the equivalent of one glass of wine — four days in a row — at gestational days 17-20, the equivalent of the second trimester in humans.
Juvenile male and female offspring were then tested for water or alcohol consumption and adolescent males were tested for sensitivity to alcohol by injecting them with a high-alcohol dose, which made them unresponsive and measuring the time it took them to recover their senses.
The results, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, suggest that if a mother drinks during pregnancy, even just a little bit, she increases the risk that her progeny will become alcoholic.
The team claims to be the first to investigate the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and alcohol-related behaviour on generations that were not directly exposed to alcohol in the uterus during the pregnancy.