Severe harmful impacts of long-term heavy drinking on health

Credit: Unsplash+

Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have made significant strides in understanding the severe impacts of long-term heavy drinking on health, particularly focusing on alcohol-associated hepatitis.

This serious liver disease, highlighted by recent research led by biochemist Jon Jacobs, is largely the result of consuming excessive alcohol for many years—typically equating to more than a six-pack of beer, a whole bottle of wine, or more than four shots of liquor daily over a decade.

Alcohol-associated hepatitis is notably more severe than other liver conditions such as cirrhosis and fatty liver, which are also linked to alcohol consumption.

The statistics surrounding this disease are sobering, with about 10% of patients dying within a month of diagnosis and 25% within six months, underscoring the critical nature of this condition.

In their study, published in the American Journal of Pathology, Jacobs and his team analyzed blood and tissue samples from 106 individuals.

This group included 57 patients specifically suffering from alcohol-associated hepatitis, alongside others with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, different alcohol-related liver diseases, or those who were healthy.

Utilizing sensitive mass spectrometry techniques, the researchers were able to measure over 1,500 proteins in the participants’ blood.

Their findings revealed that alcohol-associated hepatitis profoundly affects protein activity in the blood, identifying about 100 proteins that are altered in patients and seem to drive the disease.

These proteins are involved in a range of bodily functions, including inflammation, immunity, clotting, and fundamental liver operations.

This disruption correlates strongly with the disarray observed in the genes and proteins in the liver, establishing a direct link between specific blood protein expressions and liver function.

One molecule, HNF4A, emerged as a central hub in liver gene activity and is also implicated in other diseases like pancreatic cancer and diabetes. This discovery underscores the broad implications of liver health and its interconnectedness with other serious health conditions.

The research team is optimistic that their work will lead to the development of a blood-based biomarker for alcohol-associated hepatitis.

Such a diagnostic tool could revolutionize how this disease is detected and monitored, providing a non-invasive method to identify the condition. Additionally, they are exploring whether these protein changes can help monitor patient responses to treatment.

Current treatments typically involve the use of steroids to reduce inflammation, which, while effective in managing symptoms, can leave patients more susceptible to infections.

This highlights the need for more targeted therapies that could address the underlying disease mechanisms without compromising the immune system.

This study not only advances our understanding of alcohol-associated hepatitis but also illustrates the destructive impact of long-term heavy drinking on liver function and overall health.

As research continues, there is hope for more effective and less invasive treatment options for those suffering from this severe condition.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about how ultra-processed foods and red meat influence your longevity, and why seafood may boost healthy aging.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.