People are well aware that consuming alcohol can affect the liver in various ways, causing irreversible damage. But the question has remained, what patterns does a person have to have in regard to alcohol consumption in order to cause this type of bodily damage? Well, a new report that is scheduled to be published in depth by the April 2009 issue of the magazine Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research shows that the pattern does matter, and that it is actually “chronic drinking” as opposed to “acute” or “binge” drinking that causes the most injury to the liver.
Chronic drinking is defined by the PA Department of Health as “having an average of 2 or more drinks per day for the past 30 days.” Well, that describes most people, doesn’t it? It certainly does, and that is why there is such cause for concern by researchers.
The study used rodents as the patients, and what these scientists were looking for was “gene-expression changes”. According to them, depending on your pattern of alcohol consumption, those different patterns actually produce different patterns of gene expression in the liver. Why is this? Apparently because the liver is adapting to this intake of alcohol as it detects the same level of blood alcohol on a regular basis. You see, if you are chronic drinker, as the definition above shows, you are drinking every day (though not in large amounts) and your body has to make itself used to this type of behavior. It’s not like a one-time thing, in other words. Scientists explain that the liver actually learns the behavior of the one drinking, and actually remembers how to respond. Over time, it becomes rehearsed and that’s when the greatest damage occurs.
In fact, this chronic behavior is so damaging that scientists also explain the effects even after one decides to cut alcohol out of their diet completely – seeing how the liver has adapted, the person can actually become very sick after the decision to abstain. It’s as if the person has taken everything that the liver has learned away from it, and this is shocking to its function.
Dr. French, leader in the study, says: “After chronic abuse the liver cells become swollen and filled with fat stores, some liver cells died and cells in the liver that make scars are activated. These changes do not occur in the liver after an acute or binge dose, as demonstrated by gene expression.”
So, readers beware – even drinking in moderation on a daily basis can stand to harm your liver, by actually “programing” it!