In the News: Could a single booze binge harm your health?
“Four glasses of wine is enough to harm your health”, scientists say...
A study, carried out by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the US, has found that just a small amount of alcohol can cause harmful bacteria to leak from the gut into the blood.
The study was conducted on 25 healthy adults who were given alcoholic drinks and had the levels of alcohol, bacterial molecules called endotoxins and markers of inflammation in their blood measured for the next 24 hours. The study found that bacterial endotoxin levels increased after drinking alcohol, with the increase being more noticeable in women. Corresponding increases in certain blood inflammatory markers were also found.
The authors reported that chronic alcohol consumption makes the wall of the gut more “leaky”. This makes it easier for molecules from the bacteria living in the gut, such as endotoxins, to enter circulation. Endotoxins are produced from the cell wall of certain types of gut bacteria, including E. coli, and can trigger immune responses, such as inflammation. It is thought that this contributes to the effects of alcohol on the liver. Sustained alcohol-related liver damage can lead to alcohol-related liver disease.
This is a small, short-term study and does not tell us what effects the increase in inflammatory markers seen would actually have on the body. We also don't know what results would be obtained from larger samples of people, including those of different ages, health and habitual drinking patterns.
Despite the limitations of this small study, the adverse effects of drinking too much alcohol are still well known and include an increased risk of liver disease, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. Alcohol is also associated with mental health problems, including depression.