Scientists Discover Genes Responsible for High Alcohol Intake


A recent international research, published in Science Advances, has identified genes associated with high alcohol intake.

According to the study reported on Medicalnewstoday, it revealed increase in global level of alcohol consumption, noting that the total volume of alcohol consumed per year increased by as much as 70 percent between 1990 and 2019, from 20,999 million liters per year to 35,676 million liters per year.

The researchers asserted that alcohol consumption is associated with many diseases, with the risk of these co-morbidities generally increasing with greater exposure.

They further noted that excessive consumption of alcohol is considered a result of complex interactions between genetic and non-genetic risk factors. A number of family, twin, and adoption studies have shown that high alcohol intake definitely has a genetic component, although finding consistent outcomes in terms of exact genes associated with this behavior has been difficult.

In an effort to identify the specific genes responsible for high levels of alcohol consumption, a team of international researchers, led by Dr Andrew Thompson and Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed from the University of Liverpool, conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) using the UK Biobank to pinpoint the genes responsible.

Scientists Discover Genes Responsible for High Alcohol Intake
Scientists Discover Genes Responsible for High Alcohol Intake

More frequently in people with a particular condition than in people without the condition, it can suggest the underlying reason for the difference.

The study used 125,000 participants from UK Biobank and a further 49,000 from a US study to explore how genes and biological pathways are implicated in alcohol consumption. Taken together, the findings suggest several common pathways associated with different types of compulsive behaviour and addiction, not just alcohol consumption.

Model organisms (worm models) were used to test the functional effects of the genes identified in GWAS (i.e. what happens when the gene is removed). All genes tested demonstrated marked changes in the worms’ response to alcohol exposure. This is novel in the alcohol field and suggests that these genes have a true impact on response to alcohol.

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Dr Thompson, said: “Our study offers insight into genes, pathways, and relationships for disease risk associated with high alcohol consumption.

“This improved understanding regarding genetic risk of alcohol consumption will lead to further study and hopefully opportunities to develop new treatments for people with alcohol use disorders.”

Professor Pirmohamed, said: “This is a really important area because of the morbidity and mortality, and societal effects, of heavy alcohol consumption. Our study also highlights the fantastic value of the UK biobank, a long term investment by many funders in the UK, which is now leading to many novel insights in a large number of diseases.”


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