MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Binge-drinking teenagers may be putting themselves at risk for future osteoporosis and bone fractures, according to researchers at Loyola University Health System.
A new Loyola study has found long-lasting disruptions in hundreds of genes involved in bone formation in rats. The study is published in the July-August issue of the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.
"Lifestyle-related damage done to the skeleton during young adulthood may have repercussions lasting decades," bone biologist John Callaci, PhD, and colleagues wrote.
Callaci cautioned that data from animals don't directly translate to people. "But the findings certainly suggest that this could be a problem with humans," he added.
Bone mass is lost throughout adult life as part of the aging process. Thus, anything that inhibits the build up of bone mass during the critical years of adolescence and young adulthood could increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in later life.
Binge drinking is defined as a woman having at least four drinks or a man having at least five drinks on one occasion. Heavy binge drinkers can consume 10 to 15 drinks. Binge drinking typically begins around age 13 and peaks between 18 and 22, before gradually decreasing. Thirty-six percent of youths ages 18 to 20 reported at least one binge-drinking episode during the past 30 days, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
A 2008 study by Callaci and colleagues found that adolescent rats exposed to alcohol in amounts comparable to that of binge drinkers had 15 percent less bone build-up than control rats exposed to saline solution.
The new study examined the effects of binge drinking on genes. Rats received injections of alcohol that resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.28. (By comparison, a motorist with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.08 is legally drunk.) Rats were exposed to binge amounts of alcohol
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Loyola University Health System