Add one more thing to the list that frequent heavy drinking can do to damage you. Not only can it destroy your liver, relationships, and bank account; new research has found that it can alter you DNA. Researchers from Rutgers University recently published a study that found that people who drink heavily and frequently may be changing their DNA in ways that make them crave alcohol even more. This might help explain why drinking is such a powerful addiction as well as help us find new ways to treat alcoholism.
The experiment consisted of three drinking groups: moderate, binge and heavy drinkers. They discovered that two genes had changed in the binge and heavy drinkers through methylation, a gene modification process influenced by alcohol. These two genes were:
PER2 – influences the body’s biological clock
POMC -regulates the body’s stress-response system
In binge and heavy drinkers, these genes showed reductions in gene expression. Meaning, they slowed down the rate in which they create proteins the more the subject drank. Also in the experiment, heavy and binge drinkers were exposed to “neutral alcohol-related” images like advertising or containers of beer. Some reported that they could physically taste the beer when they saw the image.
The Rutgers’ study result: alcohol fueled changes in the genes of binge and heavy drinkers were associated with a greater desire for alcohol.
These findings have greater implications for further study. Seeing how alcohol changes the body at the molecular level can help identify certain biomarkers. These markers are measurable indicators including proteins or modified genes that could predict the risk of binge or heavy drinking in individuals.