Binge drinking is associated with a number of risks. Immediate potential consequences of consuming a large amount of alcohol include an increased likelihood of sustaining an injury, involvement in assault and risky sexual behaviors. These risks can have lasting impact, such as disability from an injury or an unplanned pregnancy.
There are also long-term consequences of binge drinking. Liver damage and heart disease are both associated with binge drinking. Those who engage regularly in binge drinking may find that relationships with loved ones are negatively impacted, as well as professional or academic achievement.
Binge drinking is generally defined as five or more drinks on one occasion for men, and four or more drinks on one occasion for women. Binge drinking is associated with the above-listed risks, but it also carries an increased risk of developing an addiction to alcohol, as well as other alcohol-related problems.
A study featured in an article in redOrbit challenges the notion that risks for health problems are applicable only in situations where a person has a chronic binge drinking habit. Instead, the study finds that not only are occasional binge drinkers at risk, but even one instance of binge drinking can negatively impact physical health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that binge drinking is the most common type of excessive alcohol use among Americans. One in six adults is affected. Binge drinking is understood as increasing the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08g/dL or higher.
The extent of the danger involved in binge drinking is highlighted by new research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The researchers found that damage can be traced to even one round of binge drinking. Their findings appear in a recent issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
According to the findings, binge drinking leads to the leaking of bacteria from the stomach, which then increases the toxin level that can be detected in the blood. As a result, the body may increase the production of immune cells that are generally used to combat fever, tissue destruction and inflammation.
A statement by Gyongyi Szabo, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and vice chair of the Department of Medicine and associate dean for clinical and translational studies at UMMS, said that just one bout of binge drinking can set off an immune response. This response may negatively impact the health of someone that is considered otherwise healthy. The findings show that one round of binge drinking may be much more dangerous than experts had previously thought.
While the number of drinks it takes to get a person to the level considered binge drinking may vary by weight, it is considered binge drinking if the 0.08g/dL level is reached within two hours of beginning to drink. Such drinking is known to be dangerous, sometimes causing irreparable damage to the liver.
The researchers provided 11 men and 14 women with enough alcohol to increase blood alcohol levels to at least 0.08g/dL in one hour. After the alcohol was consumed, the researchers measured alcohol content in blood samples in each of the participants every thirty minutes over a four-hour period. Blood samples were taken again 24 hours after the alcohol was consumed.
Besides measuring the blood alcohol concentration, the researchers also noted that there was a dramatic increase in the level of endotoxins contained in the blood. This is indicative of the destruction of a certain type of bacterial cell, which allows the endotoxins contained in the wall of that cell to be released. In addition, the researchers detected bacterial DNA in the blood samples, which provided evidence that bacteria had permeated the lining of the gut.
Women in the study generally had a higher blood alcohol concentration and endotoxin levels present in the blood when compared to men.
This study’s small sample size may lead to additional research to confirm an increasing body of research that has documented a connection between binge drinking and gut permeability. Other studies have shown that gut permeability is linked to chronic alcohol consumption.