Chicago: In one more reason why teenagers
should stay away from binge-drinking, a new study has claimed
the habit may increase their risk of developing osteoporosis
besides other long-lasting health hazards.
The study on rats by researchers at Loyola University
Health System in Chicago found that heavy drinking disrupts
hundreds of genes involved in bone formation, which may lead
to future osteoporosis and bone fractures.
"Lifestyle-related damage done to the skeleton during
young adulthood may have repercussions lasting decades," the
researchers wrote in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.
Lead researcher John Callaci said although data from
animals don`t directly translate to people, "the findings
certainly suggest that this could be a problem with humans".
Bone mass is lost throughout adult life as part of the
ageing process. Thus, anything that inhibits the build up of
bone mass during the critical years of adolescence and young
adulthood could increase the risk of osteoporosis and
fractures in later life, the scientists said.
Binge drinking is defined as a woman having at least four
drinks or a man having at least five drinks on one occasion.
Heavy binge drinkers can consume 10 to 15 drinks. The habit
typically begins around age 13 and peaks between 18 and 22,
before gradually decreasing.
A 2008 study by Callaci and colleagues had found that
adolescent rats exposed to alcohol in amounts comparable to
that of binge drinkers had 15 per cent less bone build-up than
control rats exposed to saline solution.
But the new study examined the effects of binge drinking
on genes of rats, who were given injections of alcohol that
resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.28. A motorist with a
blood alcohol level higher than 0.08 is legally drunk.
During the research, rats were exposed to binge amounts
of alcohol on either three consecutive days (acute binge) or
three consecutive days for four weeks in a row (chronic
binge). Then they were compared to a group of control rats who
It was found that about 300 bone-related genes were
disrupted in rats exposed to acute binge drinking and 180
bone-related genes were disrupted in rats exposed to chronic
In the affected genes, alcohol either increased or
decreased the amount of associated RNA, which serves as the
template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and
According to the researchers, this change in how genes
are expressed disrupted molecular pathways responsible for
normal bone metabolism and maintenance of bone mass.
In one of the most disturbing findings, they discovered
that the gene disruption was long-lasting. Even after 30 days
of sobriety, the genes still were being expressed differently.
Thirty days in a rat`s lifespan is roughly equivalent to
about three years in a human lifespan.
The researchers said the findings might help in the
development of new drugs to minimise bone loss in alcohol
abusers and in other people who are at risk for osteoporosis
for other reasons.
"If we understand the mechanism of bone loss, eventually
we will be able to figure out how to fix it," Callaci said,
adding that the best way to prevent alcohol-induced bone loss,
however, is to drink moderately or not at all.