Teen binge drinking now, thin bones later

July 17, 2010 at 2:02 AM
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CHICAGO, July 17 (UPI) -- Teen binge drinking may disrupt genes involved in forming bone, increasing teens' risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life, U.S. researchers say.

Loyola University Health System researchers conducted rat studies examining the effects of binge drinking on bone metabolism and maintenance genes. Rats received injections of alcohol that resulted in blood alcohol levels equivalent to those of binge amounts of alcohol and compared to control rats that received saline.

The researchers found about 300 bone-related genes were disrupted in rats exposed to acute binge drinking and 180 bone-related genes were disrupted in rats exposed to chronic binge drinking.

Alcohol-disrupted genes exhibited either increased or decreased amounts of associated RNA -- the template for making proteins needed for bone and other tissue.

The researchers say the gene disruption was long-lasting. Even after 30 days of sobriety -- about the equivalent of three years of a human life span -- the rats' genes were still being expressed differently.

"Lifestyle-related damage done to the skeleton during young adulthood may have repercussions lasting decades," researcher John Callaci says in a statement.

Callaci says the data from animals may not directly translate to people, but these findings certainly suggest a possible human problem. The researchers exposed rats to binge amounts of alcohol on either three consecutive days -- acute binge -- or three consecutive days for four weeks in a row -- chronic binge.

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