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Binge Drinking and Liver Disease

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Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts within a short time is termed binge drinking. This can cause fat deposition in the liver, leading to alcohol-related liver diseases.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At February 16, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 16, 2023

Introduction

Consuming excessive amounts in a short time is termed binge drinking. This is a serious health problem that can be prevented. It is the most common and most expensive way of consuming alcohol in the United States Because binge drinkers are not dependent on or addicted to alcohol, they can easily quit. In a study conducted last year, Tapper and his team found that the highest increase in alcoholic liver cirrhosis deaths reported was among the young, between the ages of 24 and 34.

What Is Binge Drinking?

Consuming five or more drinks for men or four or more for women occasionally or within two hours is termed binge drinking. This is a serious health problem that can be prevented. It is the most common and most expensive way of consuming alcohol in the U.S. Because binge drinkers are not dependent on or addicted to alcohol, they can easily quit. However, binge drinking can be harmful on its own, as it is associated with injuries and diseases and a higher risk of 'Alcohol use disorder.'

Recent studies show that at least one in six U.S. adults binge drinks, with 25 percent doing so at least weekly. In a recent study, Wong and fellow researchers found that the young generation, between the ages of 20 and 40, had a high prevalence of alcoholic fatty liver. In a study conducted last year, Tapper and his team found that the highest increase in alcoholic liver cirrhosis deaths reported was among the young, between the ages of 24 and 34.

What Are the Risks Associated With Binge Drinking?

The risk of developing alcohol dependence is greater for binge drinkers. Binge drinkers are also more likely to have sexual encounters that are unplanned or unsafe, as well as assaults, falls, injuries, criminal acts, car accidents, and poor neurophysiological functioning. The significance of this issue is also reflected in the overall cost of health care. For example, the expense of alcohol-induced liver diseases is rapidly increasing each year.

Frequent binge drinkers are found to have poor health and a greater number of sick days than non-binge drinkers. In addition, binge drinking is linked to poor work performance, brain damage, alcoholism, stroke, changes in heart rhythm, coronary heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and early death.

What Effects Does Binge Drinking Have on the Liver?

The liver is considered one of the most complex organs in the human body. Its functions include:

  • Filter toxins from the blood.

  • Help in the digestion of food.

  • Regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

  • Help in fighting infection and disease.

The liver is an organ that can regenerate itself. Unfortunately, some liver cells are destroyed each time the liver filters alcohol. The liver cells can regenerate, but overuse of alcohol can destroy the regenerative capacity. This can cause serious damage to the liver. Due to more people drinking every year, the number of people with liver diseases caused by drinking is growing every year.

The susceptibility to alcohol toxicity is related to many factors, like genetics, gender, lifestyle, food habits, and exposure to environmental chemicals and drugs. According to researchers in San Francisco, the harm caused by a 21-day intermittent alcohol binge is far greater than moderate daily alcohol consumption. The studies show that just 21 binge sessions in mice were enough to produce symptoms similar to early liver disease. The study found that the liver made fatty tissue and showed early signs of inflammation, which are early signs of liver damage. The alcohol-metabolizing enzymes (whose action causes oxidative harm to the liver) were also increased. A heavy binge episode in a chronic alcoholic can trigger steatohepatitis, an aggressive form of fatty liver that causes liver inflammation and can lead to liver cirrhosis. Alcohol and a high-fat diet work together to form nitrosative (joint reactions of nitric oxide and superoxide), endoplasmic reticulum, and mitochondrial stress, contributing to steatohepatitis. People with fatty livers are at a higher risk of liver injury from chronic binge drinking. Obesity, resistance to insulin, chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus, etc., are other factors affecting liver toxicity. Repeated binge drinking also activates immune cells, causing them to produce inflammatory cytokine proteins known as IL-1B, which are seen in liver inflammation caused by alcohol. It is not clear whether the changes due to binge drinking are completely reversible.

Hepatic respiration and lipid metabolism alter, leading to tissue hypoxia and impairment in mitochondrial functions. Signal pathways and ion channels get disrupted, unfolded protein responses and oxidative stress get activated, the adaptive immune response gets triggered, etc.—these are all secondary effects of alcohol on the human body. Additional innate immune responses, activation of fibrogenesis, and tissue repair are triggered by cell death. The gross pathological effects of alcohol consumption include fat accumulation (steatosis), inflammation, necrosis, and fibrosis. Alcohol, along with acetaldehyde, favors carcinogenesis (cancer formation) and is considered a Class 1 carcinogen by the WHO.

What Are the Complications of Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease?

Complications of alcohol-related liver disease include:

  • Internal bleeding.

  • Accumulation of toxins in the brain (encephalopathy).

  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites).

  • Liver cancer.

  • Increased susceptibility to infections.

Why Should Binge Drinking Be Reduced?

Most binge drinkers develop alcohol use disorders and many other health issues. Hence, it is necessary to take steps to stop or limit binge drinking, especially among youngsters. About 88,000 preventable deaths occur yearly in the U.S., mainly due to alcohol abuse, especially binge drinking, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, people with alcohol use disorder tend to develop a fatty liver, and about one in five tend to progress into liver cirrhosis. According to recent studies, liver triglycerides were 50 percent higher in binge drinkers, and triglyceride levels in the blood were 75 percent higher.

Conclusion

Alcohol consumption harms one's health, whether in moderation or excess. In recent times, binge drinking has become common. Binge drinking is an increasing issue among young adults and teenagers. It also has an economic and social impact. To address this issue, global interventions are required. The WHO (world health organization) has developed a strategic plan to control the harmful consumption of alcohol. Access to alcoholic beverages has been reduced; its marketing is discouraged in public places, and increasing the price of alcohol is one of the strategies developed by the WHO to control alcohol abuse.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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