Health / Lab News

Weekend alcohol consumption damages DNA in young adults

Weekend alcohol consumption damages DNA in young adultsEveryone is aware that university students are renowned for partying at the weekends. This usually involves having a few drinks each time. However, new research has discovered that this level of alcohol consumption may cause damage to DNA.

Four out of five college students in the US drink alcohol, with 1,825 students between the ages of 18-24 dying each year from unintentional alcohol-related injuries, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Previous research looking at the effects of alcohol consumption has mainly been focused on individuals who have been drinking for long periods of time. Such individuals will suffer from illnesses as a result of their alcohol consumption, such as cancer, liver damage or depression. The researchers of this new study say their study is “pioneering” as it is looking at young healthy people and the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol consumption and oxidative damage

The researchers looked at two groups between the ages of 18 and 23 and aimed to determine the level of oxidative damage caused by alcohol. Damage to proteins, membranes and genes can be caused by oxidative stress.

The study was made up of one group who drank an average of 1.5 litres of alcoholic beverages every weekend and one group who did not consume any alcohol. All participants were tested and shown to be healthy and free from any diseases and addictions.

In addition to oxidative damage, dehydrogenase – responsible for metabolising alcohol into acetaldehyde – and acetoacetate and acetone activity were also measured.

A thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) test was used to assess oxidative damage. This test showed how ethanol in the blood, and the acetaldehyde produced in reaction to ethanol affects the lipid peroxidation that impacts cell membranes. The study showed that the group who consumed alcohol had twice as much oxidative damage to their cell membranes, compared with the group who did not drink at all.

DNA damage through alcohol consumption

A comet test was also performed to assess whether the DNA was affected by the alcohol consumed. This test involves taking out the nucleus of lymphocyte cells in the blood and putting it through electrophoresis. If the DNA is damaged then it causes a “halo” in the electrophoresis, called the “comet tail”. Bigger comet tails were seen in the group who consumed alcohol, compared with the group who did not. In fact, the drinking group had 5.3 times more damage to their cells. The researchers explain “The fact is, there should not have been any damage at all because they had not been consuming alcohol for very long, they had not been exposed in a chronic way”.

It was concluded by the researchers that oxidative damage can be found in young adults with only 4-5 years drinking history.

Reference: www.medicalnewstoday.com

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