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Addiction

13 February 2019

How heavy drinking might boost your appetite for alcohol

Researchers have found that in binge and heavy drinkers, two genes that play a role in controlling drinking had changes caused by an alcohol-influenced gene modification process called methylation - making alcohol cravings worse.

Binge and heavy drinking may trigger DNA changes that make your booze cravings worse, a new study says.

"We found that people who drink heavily may be changing their DNA in a way that makes them crave alcohol even more," said senior study author Dipak Sarkar. He directs the endocrine program in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Sarkar and his team focused on two genes that play a role in controlling drinking: PER2, which influences the body's biological clock, and POMC, which regulates the stress-response system.

The researchers found that in binge and heavy drinkers, the two genes had changes caused by an alcohol-influenced gene modification process called methylation.

The binge and heavy drinkers also had reductions in gene expression, which is the rate at which the two genes create proteins.

These changes in the two genes increased with alcohol intake, according to the study.

The researchers also found that the alcohol-triggered changes in the two genes of binge and heavy drinkers were associated with a greater craving for alcohol.

"This may help explain why alcoholism is such a powerful addiction, and may one day contribute to new ways to treat alcoholism or help prevent at-risk people from becoming addicted," Sarkar said in a Rutgers news release.

The findings may also help researchers identify proteins or genes that could predict a person's risk for binge or heavy drinking," Sarkar added.

There were more than 3 million alcohol-related deaths worldwide in 2016, which was 5% of all deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization. Harmful use of alcohol was also linked with about 5% of disease and injuries worldwide.

The study was published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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