Long-term alcohol drinking can make you very sick, study shows

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In a study from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists found long-term alcohol drinking can strongly harm people’s health.

They took an in-depth look at the protein activity in the blood of patients with alcohol-associated hepatitis, a severe form of liver disease caused by heavy drinking for many years.

These patients have been drinking a lot of alcohol, typically more than a six-pack of beer or more than a bottle of wine or more than four shots of liquor per day for more than 10 years.

Hepatitis is more severe than other liver diseases that can be caused by alcohol, including liver cirrhosis and fatty liver.

About 10% of patients with alcohol-associated hepatitis die within one month of diagnosis; about 25% die within six months. They’re often in the last throes of an illness that has been in the making for many years.

In the study, the team did an analysis of blood or tissue samples from 106 people.

These included 57 patients with alcohol-associated hepatitis and 49 others who either had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, other alcohol-related liver diseases like cirrhosis, or who were healthy.

The team used sensitive mass spectrometry to measure more than 1,500 proteins in the blood of the study participants.

Though alcohol-associated hepatitis has an overwhelming impact on proteins in the blood, the team identified a group of 100 proteins that are altered in patients and seem to drive the specific disease.

The affected proteins cover the gamut of bodily functions, including inflammation, immunity and clotting, as well as fundamental liver function.

The results correlated well with previous alcohol-associated hepatitis studies involving patient liver tissues.

The core proteins altered in the disease patients’ blood directly correlate with the vast dysregulation of the genes and proteins in the liver, linking disease-specific protein blood expression to liver function.

Both studies point to a central role for a molecule known as HNF4A, which is a central hub of liver gene activity. HNF4A is also involved in diseases like pancreatic cancer and diabetes.

The work is an important step toward developing a blood-based biomarker—a blood test—that would show that someone has alcohol-associated hepatitis.

The team is conducting further studies to see if the same protein changes could be used to monitor how patients are responding to treatment.

Doctors typically use steroids to reduce inflammation, but the treatment leaves patients vulnerable to infection.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about how many alcohol drinks is too many,  and low-carb diet that could help reverse brain aging.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about vitamin K that could help cut heart disease risk by a third, and results showing this drug may prevent respiratory and heart damage in COVID-19.

The study was conducted by Biochemist Jon Jacobs et al and published in the American Journal of Pathology.

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