Overindulging in booze during your formative years might do more than just give your liver a workout — it could also have serious negative health effects on your future children, according to a recent study from Loyola researchers.
Using rats, researchers at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine recently revealed a link between binge drinking during adolescence and defects in growth, social interaction and puberty in the rats’ offspring.
Because humans and rats share similar biological makeup, those results could give pause to teens looking to party.
Around 4.5 million Americans under 21-years-old said they binged alcohol in 2016, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Binge drinking, as defined by the National Survey for Drug Use and Health, counts as five or more drinks for men on one occasion and four or more drinks for women on one occasion.
In the most recent survey of students from Loyola’s Wellness Center from 2016, 43 percent of undergraduate males and 34 percent of undergraduate females at the university self-reported binge drinking at least once in the past two weeks.
The study, published June 19 in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, mated together pairs of rats who’d been exposed to heavy alcohol use and pairs that stayed sober.
Rats are researchers’ best shot (without breaking the law) of testing the effects of underage binge drinking, according to the study’s lead author Andie Asimes, because their bodies break down alcohol at a similar rate to humans and their mental processes are comparable.
“We wanted to know what kind of long-term implications alcohol exposure during this critical period has,” Asimes, a research associate at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, said.
The study was conducted with National Institute of Health grants and was a joint effort between Loyola and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.
Overall, the study found rats whose parents heavily consumed alcohol during adolescence had up to a 20-30 percent smaller body weight, fewer social behaviors, such as wrestling and playing, and lower testosterone. Additionally, the binge drinking rats’ offspring didn’t develop an abnormally high alcohol tolerance, the study concluded.
Asimes said while this is one study and not definitive proof teen binge drinking leads to birth defects, she said it could at least signal “Your choices … might have long-term implications.”
“As we learn more and more about genetics and heritability, we’re finding out that the experiences everyone has throughout their life shapes not only their own life but … can be translated to the next generation,” Asimes said.
Students and professors from Loyola’s alcohol research program also recently dissented with a study that suggested daily alcohol consumption could increase lifespan.