Jan 7, 2022
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5 facts we learned about alcohol in 2021

Alcoholic oncology

Every sixteenth case of cancer in Russia was associated with the use of alcohol. In the world, this figure is noticeably lower: only every twenty-fifth cancer. In total, there are more than 740 thousand cases of cancer due to alcohol in the world per year. Most often, the esophagus, larynx, oral cavity, large intestine, liver, and in women also the chest are affected.

At the same time, 76.7% of cases are in men. Moderate alcohol consumption (less than 20 grams per day or about one and a half glasses of wine) was responsible for nearly 14% of all cancers. For those who drink from 20 to 60 grams – almost 40%, and for excessively drinkers who consume more than 69 grams per day, the remaining 46%.

Experts fear that in reality the picture is much darker, since only official data on the sale of legal alcohol are available to scientists. And pathology is often caused by surrogate, unregistered alcohol.

According to the WHO, alcohol takes away 3 million lives a year. Alcohol accounts for 5.3% of all deaths and 5.1% of illness and injury. 13.9% of deaths in young people between 20 and 39 are alcohol-related.

Shaky gait

Uneven gait, strange behavior and even red cheeks are all symptoms of alcohol intoxication. Previously, it was believed that alcohol is absorbed in the liver, and the brain receives only decay products. It turned out that alcohol can penetrate directly into the cerebellum and be oxidized there and strongly affect the coordination of movements.

To assimilate ethanol, our body must break it down: for this, a special enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, converts alcohol into acetaldehyde. It, in turn, is broken down by another enzyme, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, converting it into acetate (acetic acid). If there is little acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, then the person experiences a severe hangover.

It used to be thought that both of these enzymes were produced only by the liver. However, studies have shown the activity of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase in the cerebellum. Scientists also found acetate there. To find out it was necessary to literally solder the mice.

The study provided more questions than answers. For example, it is not yet clear whether ethanol itself enters the brain or whether acetaldehyde is to blame. However, while mouse brains have been studied, tests on humans are ahead.

Drunker than you think

Half of those drinking underestimate the degree of their intoxication and believe that they can still get behind the wheel. The large beer producer Carlsberg donated 420 liters of beer to the scientists for the study.

The laws on drink driving differ from country to country. In Russia, for example, it is allowed to drive if the blood count is less than 0.3 ppm. This is the concentration that is reached in the blood of a man weighing 80 kg 4.5 hours after drinking half a liter of beer. However, this is a very conditional parameter, everything will depend on the individual characteristics of the organism.

To find out how careless we are, scientists from the University of Cambridge decided to get their students drunk. On the first day, 39% of the participants in the experiment failed to assess their condition, on the second – 53%. At the same time, the more drunk the students got, the worse they understood how drunk they really were.

On the one hand, it may seem that this is an obvious conclusion, but now it has been scientifically confirmed. Scientists also offer a solution to the problem. For example, install kiosks near drinking establishments where everyone can check their level of intoxication before deciding to get behind the wheel.

Deceiving pleasure

Scientists have found out how alcohol dependence is formed in adolescents. It turned out that there are two essentially opposite paths, which ultimately lead to the same result.

In the first scenario, in the brains of adolescents aged 14-19, who abused alcohol, no protective brain reactions were formed. They only felt the positive effects of alcohol. In the second case, the mechanism worked exactly the opposite, the adolescents felt bad from alcohol, they felt fear and anxiety. However, this encouraged them to drink more.

To uncover this intricate pattern, the scientists had to process functional MRI data from the brains of nearly 2,000 adolescents. First, scientists took data from fourteen-year-olds, and then checked their own indicators when they turned 19.

Scientists were interested in the brain regions responsible for reward and pleasure formation. And the reaction was revealed only to alcohol. Other available psychoactive substances, such as tobacco or marijuana, did not have this effect.

Owl share

Owls were more likely to be nervous and had a higher risk of mental disorders. They also drank more tonic drinks and alcohol, and also smoked noticeably more. Scientists have found that “owls” drink more “larks”. Researchers again put experiments on students. They were asked to answer what time they went to bed, and were also asked a series of clarifying questions about the quality of sleep, the level of anxiety and impulsivity. The questionnaire also included questions about how much the respondents drink alcohol, smoke, consume coffee and energy drinks.

It is not yet completely clear what lies at the heart of such behavior of “owls”. Scientists suggest that such people are simply more impulsive. However, the opposite is also possible: due to late falling asleep and early waking up for classes, “owls” may be more susceptible to stress, which only exacerbate bad habits.

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