Heavy and Binge Alcohol Consumption linked to DNA Change
A recent study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research has found that heavy consumption of alcohol can change the addict’s body on a genetic level. The results show that this potential change can increase the craving for alcohol. This goes some way to explain the reasons why this addiction can be so powerful and destructive.
The significance of the findings
Professor Dipak K. Sarkar of Rutgers University’s Endocrine Program was the senior author behind the study. He has suggested that the findings could help towards the development of new forms of addiction treatment. Those who are most at risk from alcoholism could benefit from the discovery of this DNA change. Biomarkers could measure how likely they were on a genetic level to develop unhealthy cravings.
The World Health Organization has reported that more than 3 million people died as a result of alcohol use in the year 2016. That amounts to 5 percent of deaths around the entire globe. This shows the scale of addiction to this particular drug. Perhaps genetics could now be used as a tool to save the lives of drinkers in the near future. Recognizing what causes problematic cravings is an important step towards minimizing excessive consumption and helping addicts on their journey towards sobriety.
How the study was carried out
Scientists at the School of Medicine of Rutgers and Yale University compared three groups of alcohol users: moderate, heavy and binge drinkers. The study found that the heavy and binge group had developed methylation, a modification process of the genes caused specifically by alcohol. The two genes changed by this process were PER2, which affects the biological clock, and POMC, important for the regulation of the stress-response system.
During the study, drinkers were shown images of alcohol and their responses were recorded. It was found that their new gene changes were also linked to a greater desire to drink. Thanks to the findings, we now have a better understanding of the vicious cycle of alcoholism. It also adds yet another negative biological response to the list of ways that alcohol can seriously affect the human body.