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A shot to the gut

Alcohol intake and gut impacts have been researched before, but we still aren’t sure what exactly goes on after people drink. This study looked at what happens with gut bacterial products when people have multiple drinks at one sitting ... aka “binge drinking”.

Study under review: Acute Binge Drinking Increases Serum Endotoxin and Bacterial DNA Levels in Healthy Individuals

Introduction

Half the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed during a binge[1], which is defined as having five or more drinks in a row. About one in six Americans binge drink each month. Binge drinking is a risk factor[2] for a host of problems (with some shown in Figure 1), from behavioral issues like engaging in more risky sex and an increase in violence to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and liver disease. Binge drinking’s definitely a problem - but one that remains incompletely understood. One relatively unexplored area is the role of bacteria in the negative outcomes associated with drinking.

Figure 1: Some problems associated with binge drinking


Animal and human studies have recently uncovered[3] that a component of the outer membrane of certain kinds of bacteria (Gram-negative ones, specifically) called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is often found in higher levels in the blood of people with some alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver diseases. LPS is sometimes called endotoxin, since it’s a toxic part “inside” of the bacterial membrane that causes a pretty big immune response when released. Furthermore, antibiotics have been shown to mitigate[4] liver damage in rats exposed to alcohol over longer time periods. From this evidence, it’s been hypothesized that increased LPS and other bacterial components that enter the blood after drinking may lead to an immune response, which in turn can contribute to liver damage.

Who and what was studied?

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What were the findings?

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What does the study really tell us?

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The big picture

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Frequently asked questions

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