The connected dots: Liver, brain and alcohol

It is said that the atmosphere around one’s self affects the person that they grow up to become. For instance, an adolescent who has a stable environment at home, a good circle of friends, and gets good education is likely to have a stable career and a successful life. Although, it sometimes never turns out that way. In contrast, many children grow up amongst hardships. These include witnessing domestic violence, seeing parents indulge in substance abuse, unemployment, bullying and so on. This too can have an adverse effect in the growing years. Probably that is why the United States has more than a million people who take to alcohol abuse in the initial phases of their lives.

Alcohol abuse comes from the need to suppress or numb the difficult situations in one’s life. It can best be described as an escape mechanism that helps cloud the reality of the situation for the user, albeit for a few hours. However, its side effects stay for long.

A team of experts from the Imperial College London, King’s College London and UT Southwestern Medical Center have jointly conducted one of the largest study of its kind, which states that there may be a hormonal link between the liver and the brain, and that this link controls people’s drinking habits.

Genetic framework likely to influence drinking behavior

The study was aimed towards finding a new pathway to reduce the desire for alcohol in drinkers. The habit may be genetically or socially acquired but it has become a vice in modern times. “Alcohol drinking in excess is a major public health problem worldwide and we need to find new ways of reducing the harmful effects of alcohol in the population. Even small shifts downward in the average amount of alcohol people drink may have major health benefits,” said Paul Elliott, one of the professors and senior investigators in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in the U.K.

The team had to pool and analyze data from genome-wide studies. This was done in a sample size of over 105,000 European individuals. The sample populace was made to fill out detailed surveys about their weekly drinking habits as well.

β-Klotho, a gene, was found to exhibit variations that were linked directly to the amount of alcohol consumed by the sample size populace. This suggested that the gene could possibly be influencing their drinking behavior. On the contrary, 40 percent people exhibited a less frequent variant which denoted a decreased desire to drink alcohol.

Further evidence to substantiate the findings

The study was then conducted on mice after removing the β-Klotho gene from their brains. The mice showed a higher preference for alcohol than the mice who possessed the gene, thereby suggesting β-Klotho gene may help control alcohol consumption. The researchers also found that the mice without the gene displayed no difference in measures of anxiety, which is one of the leading factors influencing drinking behavior.

The research team also looked at the liver hormone FGF21. Under normal conditions, it would generally inhibit alcohol preference in the mice. What they found was that the FGF21 had absolutely no effect on the alcohol behavior of the mice without the gene, suggesting that the liver hormone’s influence depended on β-Klotho. “The results point towards an intriguing feedback loop, where FGF21 is produced in the liver in response to sugar and alcohol intake, which then acts directly on the brain to limit consumption,” highlighted the study.

However, it only examined non-addictive alcohol consumption. Further research is required to explore more addictive forms and how β-Klotho can affect other genes as well.

Road to recovery

Alcohol addiction seems to be a growing problem in every part of the globe. As a result, alcohol addiction treatment centers have stepped forth to ensure that the people suffering from this dreadful addiction can get treatment and lead healthier, happier lives. Extensive treatments are administered to ensure that a patient sustains the sober period and does not relapse.

If you or your loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, the Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline is the place to get further information. Call our 24/7 helpline number at 866-281-3014 or chat online with our online experts to get details about alcohol addiction treatment centers in Texas.