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Parents who drink heavily more likely to have kids who do the same: study

A double shot of bad news for parents who drink heavily: On both the nature and nurture fronts, you might be setting your children up to follow in your footsteps, according to two separate U.K. studies.

In the first, a poll was conducted of 1,433 parents and 652 of their children aged 10 to 17 for a charity called Drinkaware. The poll found that 19 per cent of the children with  parents drinking more than the recommended limits had been drunk themselves. Only 11 per cent of kids whose parents drink within the guidelines or not at all had been drunk before, reports The Telegraph. Similarly, kids with heavy-drinking parents were more likely to report monthly drinking than their peers in the study.

In the U.K., the government guidelines suggest men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day (described as a pint and a half of 4 per cent beer) and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units (a 175 ml glass of wine).

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In Canada, the comparable guidelines are about one daily drink tighter. Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's web site, for instance, suggests men limit their alcohol intake to 15 drinks a week, with no more than three drinks most days. Women should top out at 10 drinks a week and no more than two drinks a day most days. They also suggest women drink no more than three drinks in a single occasion and men not more than four.

The U.K. poll found that parents who drink above the guidelines also have a more relaxed attitude to underage drinking, reports The Telegraph.

At the same time, scientists are honing their understanding of the genetic link to problem drinking. They believe a gene called RASGRF-2 can hard-wire people for "binge drinking by boosting levels of a happy brain chemical triggered by alcohol," reports the BBC.

A team at King's College London "found animals lacking the gene had far less desire for alcohol than those with it." And brain scans of 663 teenage boys showed those with a version of the gene had heightened dopamine responses in tests at age 14. When they were revisited at age 16, researchers found the boys with the "culprit" variation on the RASGRF-2 gene drank more often.

Researchers say more work is obviously needed to know whether these patterns last through adulthood, but they did raise the possibility of a future gene test that could predict which people are more at risk of alcohol abuse. But sobering news all round.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More


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