Tag: alcohol

Moderate Beer Consumption May Improve Gut Health

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The negative effects of beer on health have long been studied, but a new research suggests that beer – both alcoholic and nonalcoholic – has a positive impact on gut health. A lucky group of adult male volunteers drank moderate amounts of beer daily for a month, and the findings on their gut health biomarkers were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Gut microbiota modulation might constitute a mechanism mediating the effects of beer on health. However, intestinal microorganisms can use compounds present in beer. Previous work has found beneficial effects on intestinal from moderate beer drinking, mostly from butyric acid and gut bacteria changes.

In this randomised, double-blinded, two-arm parallel trial, 22 healthy men were recruited to drink 330 mL of nonalcoholic beer (0.0% v/v) or alcoholic beer (5.2% v/v) daily during a 4-week follow-up period. Blood and faecal samples were collected before and after the intervention period. To measure diversity, gut microbiota were gene sequenced to identify strains.

Drinking nonalcoholic or alcoholic beer daily for 4 weeks did not increase body weight and body fat mass, an encouraging sign. The nonalcoholic beer had 26kcal of energy and 5.9g of carbohydrates per 100mL, but the alcoholic beer had more energy (38.5kcal/100mL) despite having fewer carbohydrates (2.8g/100mL). The researchers also found no significant effect on serum cardiometabolic biomarkers.

Both types of beer increased gut microbiota diversity, something which has been associated with positive health outcomes and tended to increase faecal alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, a marker of intestinal barrier function.

The increase in gut microbiota may be down to phenolic compounds in the beer, chiefly from the yeast, and other types of beer besides the Lager used may have higher levels of these beneficial compounds. This benefit appears to outperform the negative effect alcohol

These results suggest the effects of beer on gut microbiota modulation are independent of alcohol and may be mediated by beer polyphenols.

Large Study Challenges Notion of Moderate Alcohol’s Cardiac Benefits

People clinking wine glasses
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Though light alcohol consumption may provide heart-related health benefits has been suggested observational research, a large study published in JAMA Network Open showed a link between all levels of alcohol intake and higher risks of cardiovascular disease. The researchers found that the supposed benefits of alcohol consumption may in fact be attributable to other healthy lifestyle factors common among light to moderate drinkers.

The study included 371 463 adult participants from the UK Biobank, average age 57 and consuming an average of 9.2 drinks per week. In line with previous findings, researchers found that the lowest heart disease risk was in light to moderate drinkers, followed by people who abstained from drinking. People who drank heavily had the highest risk. However, light to moderate drinkers also tended to have healthier lifestyles than abstainers, such as more physical activity and vegetable intake, and less smoking. One a few lifestyle factors were taken into account, any benefit associated with alcohol consumption was significantly reduced.

The study also used new techniques in Mendelian randomisation, which uses genetic variants to determine whether an observed link between an exposure and an outcome is consistent with a causal effect. “Newer and more advanced techniques in ‘non-linear Mendelian randomisation’ now permit the use of human genetic data to evaluate the direction and magnitude of disease risk associated with different levels of an exposure,” said senior author Krishna G. Aragam, MD, MS, a cardiologist at MGH and an associate scientist at the Broad Institute. “We therefore leveraged these new techniques and expansive genetic and phenotypic data from biobank populations to better understand the association between habitual alcohol intake and cardiovascular disease.”

When such genetic analyses were performed on samples taken from participants, they found that individuals with genetic variants that predicted higher alcohol consumption were indeed more likely to consume greater amounts of alcohol, and more likely to have hypertension and coronary artery disease. The analyses also revealed significant differences in cardiovascular risk across the spectrum of alcohol consumption for both males and females, with minimal risk increase when going from zero to seven drinks per week, much higher risk increases when progressing from seven to 14 drinks per week, and greatly increased risk for 21 or more drinks per week. Notably, the findings suggest a rise in cardiovascular risk even at “low risk” levels (ie below two drinks per day for men and one per day for women).

This discovery of an exponential rather than liner relationship between alcohol intake and cardiovascular risk is was supported by an additional analysis of data on 30 716 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank. Therefore, cutting back on large consumption of alcohol may have even more clinical benefits than cutting back on moderate amounts.

“The findings affirm that alcohol intake should not be recommended to improve cardiovascular health; rather, that reducing alcohol intake will likely reduce cardiovascular risk in all individuals, albeit to different extents based on one’s current level of consumption,” said Dr Aragam.

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

Effects of Fathers’ Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Manifests in Offspring

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Researchers have discovered that males exposed to alcohol in utero later pass on those effects to their offspring during foetal development, through reduced placental efficiency. The study appears in FASEB Journal.

Dr Michael Golding, an associate professor at Texas A&M University has spent years investigating the father’s role, with regard to drugs and alcohol, in foetal development. Studies have shown that males pass down more than just their genetics, Dr Golding said, but exactly how that process works and the its consequences are still largely unknown.

“When you look at the data from throughout human history, there’s clear evidence that there’s something beyond just genetics being inherited from the male,” Dr Golding said. “So, if that data is solid, we’ve got to start looking more at male behaviour.

“Say you had a parent who was exposed to starvation – they could pass on what you might call a ‘thriftiness,’ where their kids can derive more nutrition from less food,” he said. “That could be a positive if they grow up in a similar environment, or they could grow up in a time when starvation isn’t an issue and they might be more prone to obesity or metabolic syndromes. That kind of data is clearly present in clinical data from humans.”

Epigenetics, which is Dr Golding’s area of study of how things beyond genes, such as behaviour and environment, affect development is called. One of the big questions in the search for answers on how male prenatal behaviour can impact foetal growth has been the way these epigenetic factors manifest.

The team has shown that prenatal exposure to alcohol in males can manifest in the placenta: in mice, offspring of fathers exposed to alcohol have a number of placenta-related difficulties, including increased foetal growth restriction, enlarged placentas, and decreased placental efficiency.

“The placenta supplies nutrients to the growing foetus, so foetal growth restriction can be attributed to a less efficient placenta. This is why placental efficiency is such an important metric; it tells us how many grams of foetus are produced per gram of placenta,” said Thomas, a graduate student at Texas A&M. “With paternal alcohol exposure, placentas become overgrown as they try to compensate for their inefficiency in delivering nutrients to the foetus.”

However,while these increases happened frequently in male offspring, the frequency varied greatly based on the mother; however, the same increases were far less frequent in female offspring. Dr Golding thinks that although information is passed from the father, the mother’s genetics and the offspring’s sex are also involved.

“This is a novel observation because it says that there’s some complexity here,” Dr Golding said. “Yes, men can pass things on to their offspring beyond just genetics, but the mom’s genetics can interpret those epigenetic factors differently, and that ultimately changes the way that the placenta behaves.”

These results don’t draw a clear line in how drinking in human males prior to conception impacts foetal development, but they continue to at least point to it being a question that needs to be explored. 

Dr Golding is hoping that more questions will be asked about male prenatal behaviour so that there’s more data from which to work.

“The thing that I want to ultimately change is this stigma surrounding the development of birth defects,” Dr Golding said. “There’s information coming through in sperm that is going to impact the offspring but is not tied to the genetic code; it’s in your epigenetic code, and this is highly susceptible to environmental exposures, so the birth defects that we see might not be the mother’s fault; they might be the father’s or both, equally.”

Source: Texas A&M University

An Updated Look at the Link Between Alcohol and Epilepsy

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A new meta-analysis has established an association between alcohol and epilepsy, in contrast to previous studies which reported conflicting results on the relationship.

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, with an annual incidence of 40–70 per 100 000 people in industrialised countries. It is also a  disease that is highly stigmatised.

A number of studies have focused on how alcohol consumption leads to provoked seizures, commonly resulting from alcohol withdrawal, or heavy intoxication. Very few of these however focused on the link between alcohol consumption and unprovoked seizures. A 2010 meta-analysis found that alcohol users were more prone to developing unprovoked seizures – but data from recent cohort studies contradict these findings. A 2018 meta-analysis suggested that the relationship may only hold true for heavy drinkers.

Now, using more accurate diagnostic methods and recent data, a team of scientists from Pusan National University, South Korea, conducted an updated meta-analysis to conclusively clarify the relationship between alcohol consumption and unprovoked seizures and epilepsy.

For this meta-analysis, appearing in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the researchers included a total of eight studies, of which five were case-control studies and three were cohort studies. They analysed the data to assess the dose-response relationship between alcohol intake and epilepsy. The results suggested that overall, compared to non-drinkers, alcohol drinkers were at a significantly higher risk of developing epilepsy, which increased with alcohol intake. These findings are consistent with previous meta-analyses.

An important finding was that cohort studies did not show a positive association between alcohol intake and epilepsy. In fact, 2 out of 3 cohort studies suggested that alcohol intake reduces the risk of epilepsy.

More large cohort studies are needed to prove a causal relationship between alcohol drinking and epilepsy, as well as a threshold of onset, said second author Professor Yun Hak Kim.

Source: EurekAlert!

Most Hangover Cures Don’t Work

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A new systematic review has found only very low-quality evidence that substances claiming to treat or prevent alcohol-induced hangover have any effectiveness. In light of this, the researchers called for more rigorous scientific exploration of the effectiveness of these remedies for hangovers to provide practitioners and the public with accurate evidence-based information for decision making.

Numerous remedies claim to be effective against hangover symptoms; however, up-to-date scientific examination of the literature is lacking. To address this gap, a team of researchers from King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust conducted a systematic review to consolidate and assess the current evidence for hangover treatments.

The study, published today by the scientific journal Addiction, assessed 21 placebo-controlled randomised trials of clove extract, red ginseng, Korean pear juice, and other hangover cures. Although some studies showed statistically significant improvements in hangover symptoms, all evidence was of very low quality, usually because of methodological limitations or imprecise measurements. In addition, no two studies reported on the same hangover remedy and no results have been independently replicated.

Of the 21 included studies, eight were conducted exclusively with male participants. The studies were generally limited in their reporting of the nature and timing of alcohol challenge that was used to assess the hangover cures and there were considerable differences in the type of alcohol given and whether it was given alongside food.

Common painkillers such as paracetamol or aspirin have not been evaluated in placebo controlled randomised controlled trials for hangover. Future studies ought to be more rigorous, such as using validated scales to assess hangover symptoms, the researchers advised. More female participants are also needed in hangover research.

Lead author Dr Emmert Roberts said: “Hangover symptoms can cause significant distress and affect people’s employment and academic performance. Given the continuing speculation in the media as to which hangover remedies work or not, the question around the effectiveness of substances that claim to treat or prevent a hangover appears to be one with considerable public interest. Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment. For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.”

The hangover cures assessed in this study included Curcumin, Duolac ProAP4 (probiotics), L-cysteine, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), Rapid Recovery (L-cysteine, thiamine, pyridoxine and ascorbic acid), Loxoprofen (loxoprofen sodium), SJP-001 (naproxen and fexofenadine), Phyllpro (Phyllanthus amarus), Clovinol (extract of clove buds), Hovenia dulcis Thunb. fruit extract (HDE), Polysaccharide rich extract of Acanthopanax (PEA), Red Ginseng, Korean Pear Juice, L-ornithine, Prickly Pear, Artichoke extract, ‘Morning-Fit’ (dried yeast, thiamine nitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and riboflavin), Propranolol, Tolfenamic acid, Chlormethiazole, and Pyritinol.

Source: Medical Xpress

Alcohol Curbs may Return while UK Red List may be Scrapped

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With the COVID test positivity rate climbing above 30%, President Cyril Ramaphosa is widely expected to address the nation in the coming days. Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said on Friday that the National Coronavirus Command Council would be meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss new restrictions in the face of surging infections.

The main concern is centred around the large number of gatherings that will take place over the festive period: under Level 1 lockdown rules, gatherings of up to 750 individuals are permitted indoors. The Bureau for Economic Research issued a report saying that data so far indicates that there are fewer hospitalisations and less severe disease with the Omicron variant, in line with observations made since the start of the variant’s outbreak.

A partial ban on alcohol sales seems likely, according to a source cited by City Press: “He is considering proposing to the NCCC and cabinet a few adjustments, which include banning the sale of alcohol on weekends and public holidays until mid-January. Don’t be surprised when we have a family meeting before Thursday. He is serious about protecting the country.”

He initially had no plans to address the nation, sources said, but was motivated to change his view in light of the increasing rate of transmission.

Meanwhile, the UK appears set to scrap its controversial red list, which had been widely viewed as unfairly targeting South Africa. The red list amounted to a virtual travel ban, with travellers forced to pay £2285 (R48 400) per person for a ten day stay in often substandard quarantine accommodation. However, it will come too late for many people who have cancelled travel plans.

In a windfall for South Africans, the cost of PCR testing has been revised downward to R500 from R850 as of Sunday following a complaint lodged with the Council for Medical Schemes against private pathology laboratories, alleging the pricing for COVID PCR tests was unfairly inflated. Pricing for rapid antigen tests is said to be next on the list for the Competition Commission. 

On Sunday, a technical glitch caused the National Health Laboratory Service to delay release of a large portion of test results. The glitch meant that initially 18 035 cases were released initially, which rose to over 37 000 after the correction.

The cause was put down to IT difficulties with various laboratories. 

Alcohol Triggers AF – But Not Caffeine or Other Likely Culprits

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Researchers have found that, out of possible triggers they tested, only alcohol use was consistently associated with more episodes of atrial fibrillation (AF). The study, published in JAMA Cardiologydid not find that the other triggers, caffeine, sleep deprivation and sleeping on the left side, to be associated with the common heart condition.

A surprising finding was that, although most of the things that participants thought to be related to their AF were not, those in the intervention group still had less arrhythmia than the people in a non self-monitoring control group.

“This suggests that those personalised assessments revealed actionable results,” said lead author Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, professor at University of California, San Francisco. “Although caffeine was the most commonly selected trigger for testing, we found no evidence of a near-term relationship between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation. In contrast, alcohol consumption most consistently exhibited heightened risks of atrial fibrillation.”

Although caffeine was the most commonly selected trigger for testing, we found no evidence of a near-term relationship between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation.

In a brainstorming session, patients had said researching individual triggers for AF was their top priority, giving rise to the I-STOP-AFib study, which enabled individuals to test any presumed AF trigger. About 450 people participated, 58% male and 92% white.

Participants used a mobile electrocardiogram recording device along with a phone app to log potential triggers like drinking alcohol and caffeine, sleeping on the left side or not getting enough sleep, eating a large meal, a cold drink, or sticking to a particular diet, engaging in exercise, or anything else they thought was relevant to their AF. While participants were most likely to select caffeine as a trigger, there was no association with AF. Recent research has similarly failed to show a link between caffeine and arrhythmias – on the contrary, investigators found it may have a protective effect.

The new study demonstrated that consumption of alcohol was the only trigger that consistently resulted in significantly more self-reported AF episodes.

The individualised ‘n-of-1’ testing method did not validate participant-selected triggers for AF. But trial participants did report fewer AF episodes than those in the control group, and the data suggest that behaviours like avoiding alcohol could lessen the chances of having an AF episode.
“This completely remote, siteless, mobile-app based study will hopefully pave the way for many investigators and patients to conduct similar personalised ‘n-of-1’ experiments that can provide clinically relevant information specific to the individual,” said Prof Marcus.

Source: University of California, San Francisco

A Genetic Risk Score to Identify Alchol-related Cirrhosis

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In a world first, researchers have developed a genetic risk score (GRS) test able to identify patients at high-risk of developing alcohol-related cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis results in approximately 300 000 deaths each year world-wide. In their study, the researchers found that a high GRS from the test of excessive alcohol consumers resulted in a three-fold increase in cirrhosis risk. Having diabetes together with a high GRS increased the cirrhosis risk among drinkers more than 10-fold.

Joint senior author of the study, Clinical Associate Professor Devanshi Seth, said that only a minority of high-risk drinkers – approximately 10 to 15%– actually end up developing alcohol-induced cirrhosis. To date, however, there had been no way to identify those at-risk individuals.

“Our GRS test lets us identify at-risk individuals at an early stage enabling the application of focused interventions. Evidence suggests that even just informing excessive drinkers that they have an increased cirrhosis risk may motivate them to reduce their alcohol intake, helping prevent serious disease,” said Clinical Associate Professor Seth.

The lead author of the study, Dr John Whitfield from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said that the test had been developed by examining samples from patients with and without alcohol-related cirrhosis, but who all had a history of heavy alcohol consumption.

“This was classified as men consuming more than 80 grams (8 standard drinks) of alcohol daily and women more than 50 grams daily, both for a time period of ten or more years.”

“Risk scores were computed by the analysis of up to eight gene variations and three clinical risk factors (including type 2 diabetes) associated with alcohol-related cirrhosis,” Dr Whitfield said.

“We’ve shown that a GRS based on only three genetic risk variants plus diabetes status can be extremely meaningful in determining overall cirrhosis risk. Our test will allow for early and personalised management of high-risk patients,” said Clinical Associate Professor Seth.

Source: Centenary Institute

Gut Microbiome Moderates BP Benefits of Flavonoids

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Flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries, apples, pears and wine, seem to reduce hypertension due in part to characteristics of the gut microbiome, according to a new study published in Hypertension.

“Our gut microbiome plays a key role in metabolising flavonoids to enhance their cardioprotective effects, and this study provides evidence to suggest these blood pressure-lowering effects are achievable with simple changes to the daily diet,” said lead researcher Aedín Cassidy, PhD, chair and professor in nutrition and preventive medicine at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University.

Flavonoids are compounds found naturally in fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods such as tea, chocolate and wine. They have miscellaneous favourable biochemical and antioxidant effects associated with various diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, etc. Flavonoids are broken down by the body’s gut microbiome. Recent studies found a link between gut microbiota, the microorganisms in the human digestive tract, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Gut microbiota are highly individual, and seem to be associated with CVD.

With studies suggesting flavonoids may reduce heart disease risk, the researchers investigaged the role of the gut microbiome in this. 
Researchers drew on a group of 904 adults between the ages of 25 and 82, 57% men from Germany’s PopGen biobank. Researchers evaluated the participants’ food intake, gut microbiome and blood pressure levels together with other clinical and molecular phenotyping at regular follow-up examinations.

Participants’ intake of flavonoid-rich foods during the previous year was calculated from a self-reported food questionnaire detailing the frequency and quantity eaten of 112 foods.

Participants’ gut microbiomes were assessed by faecal bacterial DNA in stool samples. After an overnight fast, participants’ blood pressure levels were measured. Researchers also collected participants’ lifestyle information, and measured BMI and other physical characteristics,

The analysis found that:

  • Study participants with the highest intake of flavonoid-rich foods, including berries, red wine, apples and pears, had lower systolic blood pressure levels, as well as greater gut microbiome diversity than the participants with the lowest levels of flavonoid-rich food intake.
  • Up to 15.2% of the association between flavonoid-rich foods and systolic blood pressure could be explained by the diversity found in participants’ gut microbiome.
  • Eating 1.6 servings of berries per day (one serving = 80 grams, or 1 cup) was associated with an average reduction in systolic blood pressure levels of 4.1 mm Hg. 12% of the association was explained by gut microbiome factors.
  • Drinking 2.8 glasses (125 ml of wine per glass) of red wine a week was associated with an average of 3.7 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure level, of which 15% could be explained by the gut microbiome.

“Our findings indicate future trials should look at participants according to metabolic profile in order to more accurately study the roles of metabolism and the gut microbiome in regulating the effects of flavonoids on blood pressure,” said Cassidy. “A better understanding of the highly individual variability of flavonoid metabolism could very well explain why some people have greater cardiovascular protection benefits from flavonoid-rich foods than others.”

While this study suggests potential benefits to consuming red wine, the American Heart Association suggests that if you don’t drink alcohol already, you shouldn’t start.

Study limitations include not being able to account for all factors, such as genetics and lifestyle. The authors noted the focus of this study was on specific foods rich in flavonoids, not all food and beverages with flavonoids.

Source: Medical Xpress

Nearly 9% of Alcohol Consumed by Underage Drinkers

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Underage youth consumed $17.5 billion worth, or 8.6 percent, of the alcoholic drinks sold in 2016 in the US. Nearly half of youth consumption was made up of products from three alcohol companies: AB Inbev, MillerCoors and Diageo. The study findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

In a landmark study of youth alcohol consumption by brand, the authors collected large amounts of data to estimate, for the first time in two decades, the monetary value of youth alcohol consumption. And for the first time, they were able to attribute those revenues to specific companies.

“The alcohol industry has said they don’t want minors to drink, but when we counted up the drinks, it was clear that they were making billions of dollars from these sales,” said co-lead author Pamela J. Trangenstein, PhD, assistant professor of health behaviour at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “There is a clear disconnect when an industry advocates prevention but then makes billions of dollars from prevention’s failure.”

Alcohol is the number one substance used among people ages 12 to 20. Although underage drinking has fallen in recent years, alcohol is still responsible for approximately 3500 deaths annually for under 21s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the US, the minimum drinking age is 21, although before 1984 states set their own drinking age. According to the CDC, raising the drinking age to 21 saw a 16% reduction in motor vehicle accident deaths, and there is evidence that this limit protects drinkers from alcohol and other drug dependence, adverse birth outcomes, and suicide and homicide.

“Our prior studies have repeatedly shown that youth are exposed to and influenced by alcohol marketing,” commented co-author David H Jernigan, PhD, professor at Boston University. “If alcohol companies are truly committed to preventing youth drinking, they should be willing to put these revenues into an independent agency able to address underage drinking without a conflict of interest.”

The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, the science advisory body for the US Congress, made that recommendation in their 2003 report on underage drinking. In 2006, the legislation was passed entirely devoted to curbing underage drinking. While that legislation authorised $18 million in spending, the full amount has never been used. 

“Community coalitions in North Carolina and across the country are constantly begging for dollars to support their work on underage drinking,” said Prof Trangenstein. “Our study identifies a clear source for that badly needed funding. Families and communities are paying the price, while big alcohol companies are reaping all the benefits.”

Source: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

More information: Eck, R. H., Trangenstein, P. J., Siegel, M., & Jernigan, D. H. (2021). Company-specific revenues from underage drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 82, 368–376. DOI: 10.15288/jsad.2021.82.368