Washington: Alcohol consumption leaves its mark on the DNA of youngsters who drink regularly over the weekends, a new study has warned.
The study analysed the effect of weekend alcohol consumption on the lipids comprising cell membrane and its genetic material, ie DNA.
Until now, the damage to the packaging of nuclear material in the early stages of alcohol abuse has never been documented, researchers said.
The idea of studying the oxidative effect of weekend alcohol consumption came about when the researcher Adela Rendon was lecturing in Clinical Biochemistry at the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico.
Many of the students turning up for class on Monday morning displayed a lack of attention and general malaise due to having drunk alcohol over the weekend.
The students were divided into two groups: the control group made up of the students who did not drink alcohol and the study group of those who drank at weekends.
The age of the students ranged between 18 and 23 and the average consumption of alcohol was 118g, a litre and a half of beer, for example.
The activity of the alcohol enzyme dehydrogenase, responsible for metabolising ethanol into acetaldehyde, acetoacetate and acetone was measured.
“We saw that the ones who drank sustained twice as much oxidative damage compared with the group that did not consume alcohol,” researchers said.
They decided to continue with a test to assess whether the DNA was also affected.
They extracted the nucleus of the lymphocytic cells in the blood and subjected it to electrophoresis.
“The interesting thing is that if the chromatin is not properly compacted, if the DNA has been damaged, it leaves a halo in the electrophoresis,” which is called, “the comet tail,” said Rendon.
The chromatin of the exposed group left a small halo, greater than that of the control group.
The results revealed damage in 8 per cent of the cells in the control group and 44 per cent in the exposed group, meaning the exposed group had 5.3 times more damaged cells.
To be able to confirm the existence of considerable damage to the DNA, the comet tail must exceed 20 nm, and that was not the case.
“Fortunately but the fact is, there should not have been any damage at all because they had not been consuming alcohol for very long, they had not been exposed in a chronic way,” Rendon said.
According to World Health Organisation data, alcohol is responsible for 2.5 million deaths a year worldwide and youngsters between the ages of 19 and 25 account for 320,000 of them, researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Alcohol.