Here’s How Binge Drinking Can Rewrite Your DNA

What does binge drinking do to your cells?
That’s a question you may have never asked before, but new research suggests binge drinking could be causing enduring changes to your DNA that may, in turn, lead you to crave alcohol even more.
The study was just published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
These findings from researchers at Rutgers University and Yale University could lead to new, more effective ways to treat alcohol use disorder and prevent those who are at risk from developing it.
“The biggest thing for us when looking at this was the persistency of the gene changes after binge drinking,” senior author Dipak K. Sarkar, PhD, the director of the endocrine program at the department of animal sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, told Healthline.
The study
Sarkar and his team assessed blood samples from nonsmoking moderate drinkers, non-binge drinkers, binge drinkers, and heavy social drinkers who were part of a three-day “behavioral alcohol motivation experiment.”
Each participant was exposed to a different type of visual cue each day: a neutral image, one that was related to alcohol, and another that was stress-related.
Following this, the participants were shown beer containers, which was followed by a taste test to record each individual’s motivation to drink alcohol.
Through the blood test, Sarkar says he was aiming to look at POMC and PER2, two genes believed to be tied to drinking behavior.
PER2 affects the body’s biological clock, while POMC regulates your stress response system.
There were changes in both of these genes in the heavy and binge drinking participants through DNA methylation, a gene modification process. There was also reduced expression of these genes in their blood samples.
“Seeing the higher difference in those who engaged in heavy drinking of alcohol is pretty exciting, while it’s surprising. It’s scientifically exciting because that gives us the feeling of, ‘Wow, this is going to be something we are going to target and identify those people with problems,’” Sarkar said of the wider implications of these findings.
“The goal would be to prevent their future drinking. That is where all the excitement is here. This is a major problem for millions and millions all over the world,” he added.
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Binge drinking is a big problem
If we zoom out from the microscopic, we’ve always known that binge drinking is a problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 1 in 6 adults in the United States binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge.