Parents who binged on alcohol as teens may have antisocial kids

Binge drinking in your teens can endanger the health of future children, warns new research.

Heavy booze sessions during adolescence reduces offspring’s growth, makes them less sociable and alters their development in puberty, according to the study.

And it applies to both parents – including boys as well as girls, warn scientists.

In experiments performed by Loyola University Chicago researchers, young rats were exposed to levels of alcohol equivalent to the binge drinking patterns seen in teenagers – about half a dozen drinks in two hours.

Parents who indulged in binge drinking as teenagers may pass on predispositions to poor health factors like low body weight and antisocial behavior to their children, research shows

When they were later mated their were several consequences for the animals’ offspring.

These included smaller body weight, fewer play behaviors and decreased circulating testosterone.

Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and high blood pressure have all been linked to deficiency in the hormone.

Senior author Professor Toni Pak, of Loyola University Chicago, believes the findings, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, have implications for human health

She said: ‘Our animal study demonstrates drinking large quantities of alcohol in a ‘binge’ fashion before pregnancy can impact future offspring.

‘Importantly, this is true for drinking behaviours of both parents, not just the mother.

‘Our previous data supports the idea alcohol is affecting the parental sperm and eggs to induce these modifications in the offspring.

‘But this most recent work shows the extent of those effects on social behaviour, pubertal maturation and stress hormones as the offspring grow to adulthood.’

Her team used an established model where rats were exposed top repeated binge drinking once a day for a defined period during early and late puberty.

The alcohol was diluted in tap water at a dose equivalent to a blood alcohol level reached by 6 to 7 drinks for humans within a two hour window. After sobering up, they began mating 24 hours later.

It is known binge drinking as a teenager can cause long-lasting damage to the brain well into adulthood.

This is because drinking excessive amounts of alcohol when young can damage the brain and cause permanent changes to DNA.

This, in turn, can put teenagers at risk of anxiety disorders and alcoholism. And recent data shows these problems may directly impact first-generation offspring.

Teenage binge drinking is a major health concern in the United States, affecting around a fifth of teenagers on a regular basis. The numbers in the UK are thought to be even higher.

Prof Pak said the rodent parents also did not pass down to the offspring any adaptive traits that allowed them to better tolerate alcohol.

She added: ‘By better understanding which parental preconception behaviours impact future generations, we can do more to prevent their perpetuation.’

Earlier this week another US study, this time in mice, suggested binge drinking during your teenage years interferes with the developing brain and can lead to poor memory in adulthood.

Previous research by Prof Pak, also in rats, suggested teenagers who binge drink increase the risk of mental illness and obesity in offspring.

It found alcohol disrupts brain function in future generations by altering the on-off switch of multiple genes – making them more prone to depression, anxiety, and becoming fat.