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150 not out: Children of the 90s record score

Press release issued: 31 July 2003

Children of the 90s, the ongoing research project following the lives of thousands of Bristol schoolchildren, has published its 150th paper this month.

Children of the 90s, the ongoing research project following the lives of thousands of Bristol schoolchildren, has itself reached a landmark in its life.

This week the project, formally known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is publishing its 150th scientific paper - releasing the latest findings by Dr Cathy Williams on the eye condition amblyopia among pre-school children.

Over the years ALSPAC research has covered peanut allergy, asthma, obesity, working mothers, contraception, Caesarian birth, diet and eyesight, breastfeeding, male fertility, painkillers, junk food, cannabis, family pets, anxiety during pregnancy. . . and much more

The first paper, published by Professor Jean Golding of the University of Bristol in 1989, outlined a European study of pregnancy and childhood in various countries. The following year she published a paper on ALSPAC, and began to recruit the first of 14,541 mothers who would be at the centre of the research.

Since then ALSPAC has grown into a world resource with the potential to find ways in which all sorts of disease in childhood and adult life can be prevented or treated. Among the findings:

  • Parents who smoke, even passively, take longer to conceive
  • Some vegetarian diets during pregnancy may not be good for the developing foetus
  • Eating oily fish in pregnancy improves your child's eyesight
  • Children brought up in very hygienic homes are more likely to develop asthma
  • Peanut allergies may be linked to the use of certain skin creams containing peanut oil which are used to treat eczema.
  • Mothers who suffer stress and anxiety during pregnancy have a much higher risk of having a hyperactive child, or a child with severe behavioural problems.
  • Women having their babies by Caesarean section could find it harder to conceive next time.
  • Contrary to official advice - children with the common eye disorder amblyopia stand a better chance of being cured if treatment starts before they are three.
  • Women who frequently use cannabis during their pregnancy may affect the growth of their unborn child
  • Infants who were given a dummy were more likely to suffer wheezing, earache, fever, diarrhoea and colic.
  • Frequent use of Paracetamol during the later stages of pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and asthma in your child.

Last year scientists working with ALSPAC published 26 papers in peer-reviewed medical journals in the UK, and internationally. There are many more findings in the pipeline.

With financial backing from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the USA's National Institutes of Health, among others, ALSPAC is currently looking at all aspects of health, development, behaviour and achievement as the Children of the 90s go through puberty and become teenagers.

Professor Golding said: "When the World Health Organisation started all this in 1985 - they asked us simply 'What are the current problems in child health and development and how can they be prevented?'

"It was a big question. We always knew there was a lot be done. But you have to start somewhere and we soon had the first paper published. I am delighted, although not surprised that we have now reached 150 findings, which is testament to the determination and patience of very many people.

"Our doctors and our staff have already achieved so much that has changed the lives of children all over the world. But for me, the really exciting thing is that there is still so much yet to be done. Watch this space."

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