Only One Instance of Binge Drinking Can Affect Your Health: University Study

First Posted: May 15, 2014 02:55 PM EDT

Perhaps high school health class was right - binge drinking can seriously affect your health. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that just one episode of binge drinking can have serious effects.

Just to give an idea on the prevalence of binge drinking, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate one in six adults binge drink four times per month, with an average of eight drinks per binge. This occurs most commonly among men between the ages of 18-34. An even more alarming statistic is that 90% of the alcohol consumed by underage drinkers is in the form of binge drinking.

The UMASS Medical School researchers reported that one instance of binge drinking can result in bacteria leaking from the gut, which leads to increased levels of toxins in the bloodstream. These "endotoxins" affect the immune system, causing it to produce immune cells involved in fever, inflammation, and tissue destruction. However it's only likely to become detrimental if it's a common occurrence.

"In chronic alcohol use activation of the inflammatory cascade is a major component of organ damage in the brain and liver. Alcohol binge can cause altered immune functions that can also contribute to immunosuppression and reduced immune-mediated host defense to pathogens," the authors noted in the discussion.

The researchers' study, "Acute Binge Drinking Increases Serum Endotoxin and Bacteria DNA Levels in Healthy Individuals," was published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wendesday. In their results, the researchers revealed that there's an increase in serum endotoxin, an induction of acute phase proteins, and an induction of bacterial DNA following a binge drinking session.

The study also found that women possess higher blood alcohol levels and circulating endotoxin levels after binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism considers binge drinking five or more drinks consumed by a man in two hours or four drinks or more drinks consumed by a woman. Such consumption typically results in a blood alcohol concentration equal to or in excess of 0.08 g/dL.

So for binge drinking, the whole "once in a while" philosophy doesn't seem to apply. One all-nighter with your friends can cause some temporary negative health issues, but it's likely nobody really cares.

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