Binge drinking alters the gut health of young adults in concerning ways

CORK, Ireland — Be careful about how you celebrate on New Year’s Eve; binge drinking could radically alter your gut health for the worse. Researchers in Ireland found that young adults who binge drink display altered gut microbiomes, which are associated with a poorer ability to recognize emotions and alcohol cravings. In Western nations, binge drinking among young adults is particularly common. In Europe, one in three young adults frequently do it, and 60 percent of those 18 to 24 years-old engage in it monthly in Ireland. Despite how common this habit is, the effects tend to go unrecognized. Binge drinking is associated with a heightened risk of developing alcohol use disorder and cognitive impairment that persists well into adulthood. The team from APC Microbiome Ireland, a world-leading SFI Research Centre based at University College Cork (UCC), conducted their work with 71 young participants to study the possible link between the gut microbiome and social cognition, impulsivity and craving in young binge drinkers. They found strong connections between cravings, emotional and overall neurological processing, and changes in the gut. “By focusing on young adults, at a crucial time of both brain and gut-immune development, we identified gut microbiome alterations linked to binge drinking in young people. The microbiome composition showed associations with social cognition and impulsivity, adding support to the growing evidence that the gut microbiome plays a key role in brain and behavior. Changes in the gut microbiome composition and the neuroactive potential were associated with higher craving over time, constituting interesting candidates for early biomarkers of dependence,” says Dr. Carina Carbia, the lead researcher of the study and a postdoctoral fellow, in a media release. These findings are consistent with the evidence provided by previous works, which could strengthen indications for the development of dietary or pre/probiotic interventions that can support the gut environment and prevent such a harsh impact from alcohol. “This study demonstrates that the most common pattern of alcohol misuse during early adulthood is linked with gut microbiome alterations, even before an addiction develops. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of the gut microbiome in regulating craving, social cognition and emotional functioning. The findings support the development of microbiota-targeted diets or interventions to positively modulate gut-brain communication during this vulnerable period of adolescence before an addiction develops,” says the study’s senior author, Professor John Cryan, Vice President for Research & Innovation UCC. It’s especially important to highlight both the social and health implications of binge drinking, as well as the root causes, especially amidst COVID-19 and other events that can affect mental health, possibly pushing people to turn to alcohol for relief. It’s almost unrealistic to expect that college students and other young adults will completely cut out alcohol, but this study and others like it may pave the way for mitigating health impacts that come from regularly misusing it. The findings are published in the journal EBioMedicine. You might also be interested in:  You might also be interested in:
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