Alcohol Addiction Prevention Gene May Increase Risk of Other Disorders, Study Shows

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Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine analyzed data from over three million people provided by the genetics company 23andMe to explore the complex relationship between genetics and alcohol consumption. They found various connections between genetic factors affecting drinking habits and their association with other disorders.

Single-nucleotide polymorphisms protect against AUD

In this study, Sandra Sanchez-Roige, an associate professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, explains that genetic data was used to categorize individuals into European, Latin American, or African American groups. This classification was necessary to prevent potential data bias known as population stratification, as highlighted by co-author Abraham A. Palmer, a professor in the same department.

Researchers conducted an analysis on a genetic dataset of three million participants from 23andMe research. They focused on three specific DNA snippets called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The study found that certain variants of these SNPs provide protective effects against various alcohol-related behaviors, including excessive drinking and alcohol use disorder. One of these protective variants is rare, while others are more common. These variants affect how the body metabolizes ethanol, the intoxicating component of alcohol.

According to Prof Sanchez-Roige individuals with minor allele variant of SNP tend to quickly convert ethanol to acetaldehyde. Sanchez-Roige notes that this results in nausea which obscures any gratifying effects of alcohol. The researcher explains that certain genetic variations are linked to alcohol consumption levels and reduce the risk of alcohol use disorder. These variants primarily influence the amount of alcohol an individual might consume.

Individuals with alcohol protective genes have better health

Prof. Sanchez-Roige and her team conducted research on SNP variants’ impact on alcohol consumption using a hypothesis-free approach on a dataset from 23andMe. They aimed to explore potential effects of three SNP variants beyond alcohol consumption.

Researchers analyzed DNA and survey data from 23andMe participants, revealing a cluster of associations, some unrelated to alcohol. Those with alcohol-protective genes generally had better health, experiencing less chronic fatigue and needing less daily assistance. However, they also showed higher rates of tobacco use, emotional eating, Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism, malaria, myopia, and certain cancers.

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