Here’s How Binge Drinking Can Rewrite Your DNA

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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.

Binge drinking can lead to a range of threats to your health, from unintentional injuries and a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases to memory and learning problems.

It costs a lot, too. Binge drinking consumption cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, with expenses like drops in workplace productivity and soaring healthcare bills racking up that total, according to the CDC.

However, Angela Ting, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic Genomic Medicine Institute, says this kind of research is still speculative and a lot more needs to be investigated.

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“One important clarification to make is that this study is looking at alcohol consumption and related behaviors with regards to ‘epigenetic’ changes. It does not speak to anything pertaining to genetic risks or genetic changes,” she wrote in an email to Healthline.

“While intriguing, this is a very preliminary study with extremely limited scope. It is consistent with other reports that suggest alcohol use can modify gene expression through the activity of epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation,” she wrote.

Ting adds that given the study focused on potential changes that were measured in blood samples, “it is difficult to extrapolate the findings to help treat alcohol addiction.”

“Addiction, in large part, is controlled by processes happening in the brain, and as the authors appropriately acknowledged in their paper, the changes they reported ‘do not necessarily reflect changes in the brain,’” she wrote. “It may, however, serve as a potential marker to monitor addiction treatment progress if additional studies can reproduce the findings.”