Can drinking alcohol rot your DNA?

Can drinking alcohol rot your DNA?

There’s some bad news this week for young and healthy adults who like to partake in alcohol. According to a new study, drinking alcohol, even moderately, could damage your DNA.

The study, published in the journal Alcohol, was conducted by researchers from the University of the Basque Country in Spain and the Autonomous University of Nayarit in Mexico. The findings show that in some cases casual drinking on the weekend can induce oxidative DNA damage— a tremendously complex type of cellular damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS), a type of free radical.   

Researchers who took part in the study said they wanted to take a closer look and spotlight what’s happening with college-age drinkers. In the past, most studies of oxidative damage have focused on seasoned alcoholics, in whom ethanol has been shown to have harmful effects; while teens, healthy and young adults have received limited attention. 

To collect data, researchers surveyed college students ages 18 to 23 who drank—dividing them into two groups: those who drank and those who did not. Those who drank reported an average weekend consumption equivalent to three pints of beer.

 After administering the survey, researchers collected DNA samples from all participants, which revealed a glaring difference between those who drank and those who didn’t.

In an online press release, one of the lead authors of the study said, “We saw that those who drank sustained twice as much oxidative damage compared with the group that did not consume alcohol.”

Even though the damage noted in the study did not exceed 20 nanometers (or what researchers define as considerable damage), they were quick to point out that even nascent damage is bad news. “The fact is, there should not have been any damage at all because they had not been consuming alcohol for very long and they had not been exposed in a chronic way.”

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 1,825 U.S. college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries. And more than 500,000 sustain some type alcohol-related injury.

Researchers hope the results will help young adults recognize that the consequences of drinking are not limited to those who are defined as “alcoholics.”

“When we talk about youth alcohol abuse, we are referring to youngsters who drink alcohol without having become addicted,” researchers said. “Addiction involves a more complex issue socially and psychologically speaking. This is social alcohol abuse, but which causes damage in the long term and you have to be aware of that.”

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  1. This is not surprising.

    • Doesn’t surprise me either and as far as I am concerned, this is exactly why our population is seeing so many kids with ADHD, autisim, and other issues. For the past 40+ years, this country has condoned alcohol and drug use and it’s going to affect a person’s offspring. Just because someone quits drugs does not mean the affects go away. The damage is passed on to the children.

  2. This information is not surprising. Hurray to those young adults who respect their bodies and refrain from alcohol.

  3. While I appreciate the fact that alcohol is damaging far beyond a hang over, this would probably have greater impact if it explained the consequences of damaged DNA.

  4. Can you explain what impact damaged DNA has?

  5. When DNA is damaged cell replication degrades, so the new cells do not function as well as the previous generation. You essentially age faster and the new cells are more prone to disease and developing cancer.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.