binge drinking
May 16, 2014

Binge Drinking, Even Once, Can Negatively Affect Your Health

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Binge drinking is a behavioral problem affecting approximately one out of every six US adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that binge drinking — a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08g/dL or higher — is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the US. This leads one to ask how often a person can binge drink before they begin to damage their bodies.

According to a new study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, once is enough. Their findings, published in PLOS ONE, reveal that even a single episode of binge drinking can have a significant negative impact on health. Binge drinking can result in bacteria leaking from the gut, which, in turn, increases the level of toxins in the blood. An increased level of these endotoxins drives the body to ramp up production of immune cells involved in fever, inflammation and tissue destruction.

"We found that a single alcohol binge can elicit an immune response, potentially impacting the health of an otherwise healthy individual," said Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, vice chair of the Department of Medicine and associate dean for clinical and translational sciences at UMMS, in a  statement. "Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought."

Depending on a person's body weight, it takes five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women, in a two hour period to achieve the 0.08g/dL level. There are known safety risks associated with such drinking, such as car crashes and injuries. We also know that binge drinking, over time, can cause irreparable damage to the liver and other organs. This study, however, provides evidence that even a single binge drinking event can cause damaging health effects such as bacterial leakage from the gut into the blood stream, according to a statement issued by George Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The researchers recruited 11 men and 14 women who were given enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol levels to at least 0.08g/dL within an hour. The team took blood samples from each participant every 30 minutes for four hours, then again 24 hours later.

The team observed a rapid increase in endotoxin levels in the blood. When a certain kind of bacterial cell is destroyed, endotoxins contained in the walls of that cell are released. The research team also found bacterial DNA in the bloodstream, evidence that the bacteria had permeated the gut. Women were found to have higher BAC and circulating endotoxin levels than men.

Previous studies have linked increased gut permeability to chronic alcohol use, and greater gut permeability with increased endotoxin levels have been found to correlate to make health issues associated with chronic drinking, including alcoholic liver disease.