What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

The team analysed GAT-3 levels in brain tissue from deceased humans who had documented alcohol addiction

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What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
What Causes Alcohol Addiction? (IANS)

Molecular mechanisms including lower levels of a protein in the brain may be the reason why addicts choose alcohol over an alternative reward, finds a study that may help improve treatment for alcohol dependence.

The study suggested that the level of a transporter protein GAT-3, situated in the amygdala region of the brain — responsible for emotional reactions — was lower among the alcohol addicts.

“We have to understand that a core feature of addiction is that you know it is going to harm you, potentially even kill you, and nevertheless something has gone wrong with the motivational control and you keep doing it,” said Markus Heilig from the Linkoping University in Sweden.

In the study, published in the journal Science, the team used a mouse model to measure the expression of hundreds of genes in five areas of the brain.

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
Alcoholic beverages. Pixabay

The team investigated the role of reduced GAT-3 levels in rats that initially preferred sweetened water over alcohol. After the reduction, they were again presented with the choice between alcohol and sugar.

They found that 15 per cent of the outbred rats chose alcohol over a high-value reward.

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“Decreasing the expression of the transporter had a striking effect on the behaviour of these rats. Animals that had preferred the sweet taste over alcohol reversed their preference and started choosing alcohol,” said lead investigator Eric Augier.

Further, the team analysed GAT-3 levels in brain tissue from deceased humans who had documented alcohol addiction. They found lower levels of the protein in them than in the control individuals. (IANS)

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Higher Consumption of Alcohol Directly Associated with Stroke Risk: Research

Increased stroke rate related to higher alcohol consumption

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Increased alcohol usage resulting in higher stroke rate. Pixabay

In a warning for heavy drinkers, new research says that higher alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of having a stroke or developing peripheral artery disease (PAD).

While observational studies have consistently shown that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of certain cardiovascular diseases, they often use self-reported data and are unable to determine the cause.

For the current findings, published in the Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine Journal Report, researchers used a different technique called Mendelian randomisation that identifies genetic variants with a known association to potential risk factors to determine the potential degree of disease risk.

“Since genetic variants are determined at conception and cannot be affected by subsequent environmental factors, this technique allows us to better determine whether a risk factor — in this case, heavy alcohol consumption — is the cause of a disease, or if it is simply associated,” said study researcher Susanna Larsson from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

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Alcohol consumption resulting in higher stroke risk. Pixabay

The research team analysed the genetic data from several large-scale consortia and the UK Biobank, which follows the health and well-being of 500,000 UK residents.

Results indicate that with higher alcohol consumption, a three-fold increase of peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of arteries that results in reduced blood flow, usually to the legs.

The findings showed that higher alcohol consumption can lead to a 27 per cent increase in stroke incidence.

They also found some evidence for a positive association of coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation and aortic aneurysm.

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Alcoholism leads to higher stroke risk. Pixabay

“Higher alcohol consumption is a known cause of death and disability, yet it was previously unclear if alcohol consumption is also a cause of cardiovascular disease,” Larsson said.

The study suggested the mechanism by which higher consumption was associated with the risk of stroke and PAD may be blood pressure.

The study, however, has some limitations.

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According to Larsson, the prevalence of heavy drinking in the UK Biobank was low, and it is unlikely that the burden of increased risk of cardiovascular disease is restricted to heavy drinkers alone.

The researchers said the causal role of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular diseases other than stroke and peripheral artery disease requires further research. (IANS)

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Plant Extracts May Help to Relieve Hangover Symptoms in Morning: Study

Hangover in morning? Drink plant extracts to relieve symptoms

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A plant extract combination of fruits, leaves, and roots may help to relieve hangover symptoms in the morning, says a study. Pixabay

If you are suffering from headache and nausea after a drinking fiesta with friends last evening, read this carefully. A plant extract combination of fruits, leaves, and roots may help to relieve hangover symptoms in the morning, says a study.

The findings contradict the popular concept that hangovers are caused by a lack of electrolytes in the body — a combination of minerals that help balance acid levels. Various natural remedies have been recommended to ease hangover symptoms, but there is as yet no strong scientific evidence for their use.

In a bid to address that, the researchers from Johannes Gutenberg-University in Germany assessed the potential of specific plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidant compounds to ease a range of recognised physical and psychological symptoms associated with drinking alcohol.

The plant extracts included Barbados cherry (Acerola), prickly pear, ginkgo Biloba, willow and ginger root. The vitamins and minerals included magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, zinc, riboflavin, thiamin and folic acid.

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Various plant extracts and natural remedies have been recommended to ease hangover symptoms. (Representational Image). Pixabay

For the findings, published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, some 214 healthy 18-65-year-olds were randomly split into three groups and given a 7.5 g flavoured, water-soluble supplement 45 minutes before, and immediately after they stopped drinking any of beer, white wine, or a white wine spritzer.

Analysis of all the data showed that symptom intensity varied widely among the participants. But compared with the glucose only supplement, those taking the full supplement of plant extracts, minerals/vitamins, and antioxidants reported less severe symptoms.

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Average headache intensity was 34 per cent less, nausea 42 per cent less, while feelings of indifference fell by an average of 27 per cent and restlessness by 41 per cent. No significant differences or reductions were reported for any of the other symptoms, the researchers said.

Polyphenol and flavonoid compounds in each of the five plant extracts have been associated with curbing the physiological impact of alcohol in previously published experimental studies, the researchers explained. Their analysis also showed levels of water content in the body weren’t significantly associated with the amount of alcohol drunk.

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“The results suggest that alcohol-induced increased fluid excretion does not necessarily lead to a significant dehydration process. “It seems to be clear that hangover symptoms are predominantly caused by alcohol and its metabolites,” said the researchers.

Another study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, claimed that heavy drinker or people with a hangover have less ability to plan or set goals and make decisions the following day. (IANS)

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Find Out How Heavy Drinking Can Increase Stroke Risk

Heavy drinking can easily add 4 cm to your waistline

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Researchers now reveal that heavy drinking in old age was linked to a 1.5 inch (4cm) larger waist and increased stroke risk in men. Pixabay

Daily drinkers, please take note. Researchers now reveal that heavy drinking in old age was linked to a 1.5 inch (4cm) larger waist and increased stroke risk in men.

However, stopping heavy drinking at any point in life is likely to be beneficial for overall health.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, examined the association between heavy drinking over a lifetime and a range of health indicators including cardiovascular disease.

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“Alcohol misuse, despite the common perception of young people, binge drinking, is common among older adults, with alcohol-related hospital admissions in England being the highest among adults aged over 50,” said study first author Dr Linda Ng Fat from University College London in the UK.

For the findings, the researchers used data from the “Whitehall II” cohort, which collected information from UK civil servants, aged 34-56 years at study outset, since 1985-88.

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Stopping heavy drinking at any point in life is likely to be beneficial for overall health. Pixabay

The final sample for this study was made up of 4,820 older adults, aged between 59 and 83 years. The mean (average) age was 69, and 75 per cent were male. A heavy drinker was identified using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test for Consumption (AUDIT-C).

The screening tool consists of just three questions and assesses how often you drink, how much you drink, and how often you binge (have six or more drinks). Participants were asked on a single occasion to complete the AUDIT-C retrospectively for each decade of their life, from 16-19 to 80 and over.

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This information was used to categorise their life-time drinking pattern: never hazardous drinker, former early hazardous drinker (stopped before age 50), former later hazardous drinker (stopped at age 50 or after), current hazardous drinker, and consistent hazardous drinker (during every decade of their life).

More than half of drinkers (56 per cent) had been hazardous drinkers at some point in their life, with 21 per cent being current hazardous drinkers and 5 per cent being consistent hazardous drinkers.

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The findings showed that former early hazardous drinkers on average had a 1.17 cm larger waist than never hazardous drinkers, whereas former later hazardous drinkers, current hazardous drinkers and consistent hazardous drinkers had a waist circumference that was 1.88 cm, 2.44 cm and 3.85cm larger. respectively.

Overall, the research found that heavy alcohol consumption over a lifetime is associated with higher blood pressure, poorer liver function, increased stroke risk, larger waist circumferences and body mass index (BMI) in later life, even if you stop drinking heavily before age 50. (IANS)