Binge drinking can dramatically amplify damage to the liver

January 22, 2013

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is characterized by a fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Binge drinking is on the rise worldwide, and is particularly common in the U.S. A review of studies addressing the effects of binge drinking on the liver underscores the complex interactions among various immune, signaling pathways, epigenetic, and metabolic responses of the liver to binge drinking.

Results will be published in the April 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"The liver is the main metabolic site in the body," said Shivendra D. Shukla, Margaret Proctor Mulligan Professor at the University of Missouri, School of Medicine as well as corresponding author for the study. "It is involved in nutrient and drug metabolism and disposition, and in the production of a myriad of agents needed for the physiological functions of organs such as the heart, kidney, blood vessels, and brain. ALD-affected liver chemicals can also influence immunity, cardiovascular health, and coagulation. Thus, ALD can have a 'domino effect' on many organs."

"The liver is also the major organ for metabolism, and as such, is the first line of defense against excessive alcohol consumption," added Samir Zakhari, senior vice president in the Office of Science at Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. "The effects of on the liver depend on whether binge drinking is superimposed on chronic heavy drinking, or is done on an empty stomach especially after a period of fasting or starvation."

"Binge abuse is on the rise globally," said Shukla. "For example, about 43 percent of college students have reported at least one binge episode during the previous months. It is therefore necessary to fully understand its consequences at molecular levels. This is the first review that highlights the molecular pharmacology of binge drinking and how this may offer insight into binge-induced injury and its wider implications."

Some of the review's key themes are:

  • Binge consumption of alcohol is implicated in the pathophysiology of ALD. New studies from both experimental animals and humans indicate that binge drinking has profound effects on immunological, signaling, and epigenetic parameters of the liver. This is in addition to the known metabolic effects of acute levels of alcohol.
  • "Chronic alcohol consumption renders the liver highly susceptible to binge-induced liver damage," said Shukla. "Binge-induced liver injury impacts other organs as well, a view rather poorly appreciated by the public."
  • Binge drinking alters the levels of several cellular components and dramatically amplifies liver injury in the chronically alcohol-exposed liver.
"This review, the first of its kind, emphasizes the importance of molecular and epigenetic mechanisms in binge-induced ," said Shukla. "This review also sets the stage for additional investigations in this field. The cross-organ implications of binge-induced liver damage must be explored."

"Binge drinking influences all the mechanisms mentioned above, but can also cause mitochondrial damage, which may result in cell death and disturbances in bioenergetics," added Zakhari. "Therefore, people should not binge drink, especially on an empty stomach, and if they are chronic heavy drinkers, binge drinking will exacerbate injury, especially if comorbid conditions such as obesity, C, or HIV infection exist."

The authors stress the importance of additional molecular investigations into the binge effects of alcohol for a better understanding of ALD. They also suggest that future research address the development of therapeutic strategies to control binge drinking.

"Our review highlights the effects of ALD on multiple molecules that in turn have effects on various organs," said Shukla. "We hope this will encourage research and development of newer approaches and tools to control and ameliorate binge-induced health effects."

Explore further: The effect of occasional binge drinking on heart disease and mortality among moderate drinkers

Related Stories

The effect of occasional binge drinking on heart disease and mortality among moderate drinkers

February 2, 2012
Most studies have found that binge drinking is associated with a loss of alcohol's protective effect against ischemic heart disease (IHD) and most studies have found an increase of coronary risk among binge drinkers.

Modest alcohol intake associated with less inflammation in patients with common liver disease

May 15, 2012
NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is the most common type of liver disease in the developed world, affecting up to one-third of the US population. NAFLD is often associated with obesity and other parameters of the ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use amongst youth stable, but substance abuse admissions up

August 15, 2017
While marijuana use amongst youth remains stable, youth admission to substance abuse treatment facilities has increased, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Report reveals underground US haven for heroin, drug users

August 8, 2017
A safe haven where drug users inject themselves with heroin and other drugs has been quietly operating in the United States for the past three years, a report reveals.

Regular energy drink use linked to later drug use among young adults

August 8, 2017
Could young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks be at risk for future substance use? A new study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol ...

Gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas, research shows

August 2, 2017
Men with problem and pathological gambling addictions are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas including physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home, according to new research.

Incorporating 12-step program elements improves youth substance-use disorder treatment

July 26, 2017
A treatment program for adolescents with substance-use disorder that incorporates the practices and philosophy of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) produced even better results than the current state-of-the ...

Concern with potential rise in super-potent cannabis concentrates

July 21, 2017
University of Queensland researchers are concerned the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia may give rise to super-potent cannabis concentrates with associated harmful effects.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.