Maybe lots of people will tell you that drinking is bad for you, especially excessively, like binge drinking. Well, a new study collaborates with that fact (although you probably don’t need a study to prove it). The study explains how binge drinking can damage your brain and increase the risk of cognitive-behavioral issues like anxiety. Researchers of the University of Porto conducted a study showing that just 10 days of binge drinking can cause immune cells in the brain to wreck connections between neurons. The effect is mental health issues, like anxiety.
Okay, so the study did not use human subjects, in case you were wondering. Mice were the test subjects, but the experiments give important insights into how different substances may affect the brains of humans.
“We don’t have any reason to believe that the same mechanisms will not be operating in the human brain. Even for a short period of time, excessive drinking is likely to affect the brain, increasing the level of anxiety, a relevant feature in alcohol abuse and addiction,” explains Joao Relvas, the study’s co-author. He further adds, “ The dangers of alcohol drinking, especially amongst the younger population, have been widely underestimated and excessive alcohol drinking is socially relatively well tolerated. Increasing public awareness and education of the young can, together with other measures, change the way society looks at alcohol intake.”
The study grouped the mice into two…one was given alcohol over a 10 day time period, while the other was not. To put it in perspective, the group of mice given alcohol was 1.5 grams per kilogram of ethyl alcohol each day, which is about equal to 5 drinks for an adult human weighing about 165 pounds. After the 10 day period, the researchers examined the mice’s brain tissue and found out that the mice who consumed alcohol had significant damage to the brain that controls decision making and complex cognition. This resulted in increased anxiety. The researchers believed that alcohol boosts the production of an inflammatory molecule called TNF.
Further experiments showed that using a drug called pomalidomide to block TNF helped reduce the damage of alcohol on the brain, and reduce anxiety. Relvas believes this drug could be potentially used to treat alcohol addiction. “This study suggests that regulating the levels of TNF might eventually be useful when treating alcohol addiction.” He explained that the symptoms are “ ultimately driven by increased secretion of TNF by microglia, as we show that reducing its production either pharmacologically or genetically can prevent synapse loss and anxiety.”
But, the team does not recommend that anyone use TNF inhibitors while binge drinking, as further studies need to be done. They certainly want to ensure that the drug is safe and effective for the purpose. Besides, TNF inhibitors will not prevent any other damage to the rest of the body caused by alcohol. “Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of disease with a massive impact on human life and should be treated so,” Relvas adds.
Well there you have it…if you are a binge drinker, know that your brain (as well as other organs) gets damaged with excessive alcohol intake. Whether you believe the study or not, definitely you have felt the effects. It’s all up to you anyway.
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