Drinking too much alcohol can make you sick, but can it make you physically ill?
According to a new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, people who drank a lot of beer before age 21 have a higher risk of developing liver damage than those who drank less than one pint of alcohol per day.
“We know that alcohol consumption in childhood is associated with an increased risk of hepatic damage,” said lead author of the study, Dr. David Rennie from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
“And so we wondered if the same might be true for alcohol consumption later in life, which can lead to an increased chance of liver damage.”
Drinking beer in excess is linked to a higher than normal risk of liver injury, but it’s also a risk factor for developing liver disease later in your life.
According to Rennies research, women who drank beer during pregnancy had a 3.5 times higher risk than their peers who drank no beer during the same period.
Men who drank during pregnancy also had a higher chance of developing severe liver damage.
Drinking too much beer was also associated with a higher likelihood of developing a chronic condition known as metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factors for liver disease in adults.
“It’s a disease that affects many of the same biological systems that we see with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” said Renni.
“So we thought we’d see if we could see whether or not drinking beer was linked to other diseases that are associated with chronic disease.”
To get a better idea of what type of alcohol you should drink, researchers asked about 3,600 people in the study about their drinking habits over a 12-month period.
“The researchers wanted to look at whether there were any specific changes in the way our body processes alcohol,” said Dr. Rennio.
“And there are, in terms of the liver, there’s increased activity of enzymes that are involved in metabolizing alcohol, but there are other changes in our liver that are less clear.”
For instance, the researchers found that people who were drinking more beer during their teens had a greater increase in levels of triglycerides and higher levels of an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase.
Fatty acids are the fats in the blood that are the building blocks of the body’s fat.
“There’s also increased expression of another enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which plays a role in fat storage,” said Michael Schumacher, the study’s senior author.
“These are changes that are really important in the liver and they can lead the liver to store excess fat, which then can cause more damage to the liver.”
“So this study is really important because it shows that in terms at the liver there are changes and changes in other organs that are related to excess alcohol consumption.”
The study also found that those who were more likely to be drinking more than three beers a day had higher levels in markers of inflammation in the body, which were linked to more serious health conditions such as liver disease.
“This study is a very exciting example of the role that drinking beer can have on your health, your weight, and your risk of chronic disease,” Schumachers told Vice News.
“The fact that it’s linked to liver disease is really a big deal.”
Dr. Rensnies findings have implications for the general public, too.
“If you’re planning to be a regular beer drinker, and you know you’re at risk of getting liver disease, it might be wise to talk to your doctor about what you can do about it,” said Schumakers.
“Also, I think that alcohol has the potential to affect your immune system and affect how you metabolize fat and other things.
It might be important to know that you’re not alone.”
Drinks can also impact how your body processes other chemicals in your body, such as vitamins and minerals.
“In general, alcohol doesn’t cause a lot in terms to the way your body functions, but the fact that alcohol can affect your health is a concern,” said Scott Stossel, a research fellow at the University at Buffalo.
“So it’s important to take care of your body and that it isn’t affected by alcohol.”