Posted on 7/19/2010 by meg
According to a recent study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, teens that binge drink may be putting themselves at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life. Researchers at Loyola University Health System have discovered this possibility when from long-term changes to hundreds of genes involved in bone formation in rats.
"Lifestyle-related damage done to the skeleton during young adulthood may have repercussions lasting decades," bone biologist John Callaci, PhD, and colleagues wrote.As we age, we naturally lose bone mass. Adolescence and young adulthood is a crucial period of bone mass development, therefore binge drinking or anything that inhibit this process creates a risk of osteoporosis or fractures as we age.
Callaci cautioned that data from animals don't directly translate to people. "But the findings certainly suggest that this could be a problem with humans," he added.
How did the study define binge drinking? Females that consume at least four drinks while males that consume at least five drinks per occasion are considered to be binge drinkers. Those that may drink 10 to 15 alcoholic beverages per occasion would be considered heavy binge drinkers.
Generally, binge drinking starts around age 13, peaks somewhere between 18 and 22 and gradually decreases. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration affirm that 36% of youth between the ages of 18 and 20 have report binge drinking at least in the past 30 days.
A 2008 study by Callaci and colleagues found that adolescent rats exposed to alcohol in amounts comparable to that of binge drinkers had 15 percent less bone build-up than control rats exposed to saline solution.Now their new research studies the effects of binge drinking on genes. The researchers injected rats with alcohol to ensure a blood alcohol level of 0.28. Some rats were injected with alcohol for 3 days in a row, while others were repeatedly injected for 3 consecutive days over a period of 4 weeks, and the remainder were injected with a placebo of saline solution.
Roughly 300 bone-related genes were disrupted in rats that were injected for 3 consecutive days while 180 bone-related genes were disrupted in those injected with alcohol for 3 consecutive days over 4 weeks.
In the affected genes, alcohol either increased or decreased the amount of associated RNA. (RNA serves as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.) This change in how genes are expressed disrupted molecular pathways responsible for normal bone metabolism and maintenance of bone mass.Most alarming is the fact that the genes were still being expressed differently after 30 days of sobriety for the rats, which translates to roughly three years for a human.
Although, this discovery may not appear to be good news, a better understanding of how alcohol abuse can affect bone loss could help to create new medications that treat the problem to avoid future bone fractures and osteoporosis when prevention is inadequate.
Are Teen Binge Drinkers Risking Future Osteoporosis?
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