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When Others Drink, Your Genes May Lead You to Join Them
Date:7/30/2010

By Melissa Lee Phillips
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- Genetics may determine to what extent you're swayed by the alcohol consumption of people around you, new research suggests.

A study published in a recent issue of Psychological Science found that people with a particular genetic profile are far more likely than others without the gene to drink more when they see someone else drinking heavily.

The finding is "quite meaningful" and "illustrates how much genetics determines drinking patterns of individuals exposed to other drinkers," said psychiatrist Dr. Marc Galanter of New York University Langone Medical Center.

The study focused on different versions of a receptor for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which controls feelings of pleasure. Previous work had shown that one form of this receptor, which contains a series of seven repeats of the same DNA sequence, is associated with increased alcohol cravings in a variety of situations.

To see if this DNA influenced reactions to social drinking situations, Helle Larsen of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands, recruited young adult volunteers -- allegedly to watch and evaluate TV commercials between 4 and 9 pm in a setting that resembled a typical Dutch pub.

However, Larsen's real objective was to see how many drinks each person consumed during the study's break times.

The researchers also collected DNA samples from each participant to see which version of the dopamine receptor they possessed.

Larsen and her colleagues found that people with the seven-repeat version of the dopamine receptor were far more likely than those with a different version to drink heavily when they saw others doing so. The researchers suggest that individuals with this particular genetic background are much more sensitive to others' drinking behaviors.

The results provide an interesting view into "the interaction betwe
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