19th May, 2014 by Neal Baker
A one-off instance of heavy alcohol consumption can cause measurable damage to health, scientists from the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) have claimed.
Just four drinks in a two hour period can cause damage (Photo: David Wilbanks)
A single alcohol binge causes bacteria to leak from the gut and leads to increased levels of toxins in the blood, according to the study carried out at the UMASS Medical School.
And this damage could be caused by fewer drinks than expected, with “binging” being defined by the study as four or more drinks for women and five or more for men consumed over a two-hour period.
Professor Gyongyi Szabo, who led the research, said: “We found that a single alcohol binge can elicit an immune response, potentially impacting the health of an otherwise healthy individual.
“Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought.”
To assess the negative impacts of binge drinking, 11 men and 14 women were given enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to at least 0.08g/dl in the space of an hour.
Blood samples were then taken for every 30 minutes for four hours after and then again 24 hours later.
The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, showed that just one alcohol binge led to a rapid increase in endotoxins in the blood, which causes the body to produce immune cells involved in fever, inflammation and tissue destruction.
The researchers also found evidence of bacterial DNA in the bloodstream, showing that bacteria had entered the gut. This bacteria is then able to travel through the gut walls to other parts of the body.
Women had higher blood alcohol levels compared to men, as well as higher endotoxin levels.
Greater gut permeability and increased endotoxin levels are commonly linked to many of the health problems associated with alcohol consumption, including liver disease.