A recent study published in the journal Alcoholism : Clinical & Experimental Research suggests that an excessive consumption of alcohol can change our gene expression leading to a greater desire for alcohol.
An excessive consumption of alcohol can affect our health in many ways but it can also lead to a sustained genetic change. However the problem with these genetic changes is that they create a greater desire for alcohol. This could perhaps explain why some people continue to drink more alcohol, regardless of the awful hangover, when other know when to stop.
“We have noticed that people who drink lots of alcohol modify their DNA which encourages them to drink more alcohol,” explains Dipak K. Sarkar from the University of Butgers-Ne-Brunswick (USA) and main author of the study. This could help explain why alcoholism is such a powerful addiction and could one day help in finding new solutions to treat alcoholism or prevent people who are at risk of becoming alcohol dependent.
Researchers have focused on two genes which affect our behaviour when under the influence of alcohol. The gene PER2 influences of body’s biological clock while POMC manages our stress response system. By comparing blood samples of moderate, occasional and excessive drinkers , researchers discovered that these two genes changed in excessive drinkers. According to the study excessive drinkers are if a woman drinks 8 glasses of beer per week or 15 glasses per week for a man. More specifically, heavy drinkers showed reduced gene expressions meaning there was a reduction in the rate at which these genes create proteins. According to the study the higher the alcohol consumption, the less these changes in gene expression were supported.
During another experiment each drinker was asked to envisage three types of images: stressful, neutral and another related to alcohol. Researchers then offered glasses of beer to each participant to try. The participant’s motivation to drink could then evaluated. It would seem as though these genetic changes which are in induced by alcohol for heavy drinkers is also associated with a greater desire for alcohol. It is a real vicious circle which is difficult to escape.
Foresee the risk of excessive alcohol consumption
Previous studies have shown that alcohol can awaken reward zones of the brain which triggers a happy feeling. The could also be called an addiction. This study suggests however that this addiction can be inscribed into our DNA over time. Over time these results could bring researchers to identify biomarkers which could allow people to foresee their individual risk of excessive alcohol consumption.
The excessive consumption of alcohol is an increasing worry for health authorities. This addiction is apparently responsible for more than 5 % of deaths worldwide or 3 million people per year as revealed in an alarming report from the WHO a few months ago. What is even more worrying is that young people are becoming more reliant on alcohol.