17 June 2024

Genetic test for alcohol metabolism helped reduce alcohol consumption

Personalised recommendations based on the results of genetic analysis assessing individual characteristics of alcohol metabolism can encourage young people who drink to significantly limit their harmful habit. This was shown by a recent experiment by Japanese researchers.

Intemperance in alcohol is harmful to health, fraught with an increase in anti-social behaviour and crime rates. Young people are considered to be particularly at risk of abusing strong drinks. Meanwhile, frequent drinking in youth, combined with other factors, can lead to alcoholism and other problems later in life.

Health professionals are looking for ways to prevent alcohol abuse among young people, and a team of scientists from the University of Tsukuba (Japan) has made a contribution in this area. Past studies have shown that young people who drink have low levels of health literacy. The experts hypothesised that increased knowledge of the individual consequences of immoderate drinking would help to change drinking patterns for the better.

To confirm the hypothesis, the scientists organised an experiment. Students, professors and staff of the University of Tsukuba at the age of 20-30 years with a habit of excessive alcohol consumption (for men - four or more drinks a day, for women - two or more drinks a day) and the absence of serious health problems were invited to participate in it.

In the end, 196 volunteers were recruited and divided into an intervention group and a control group. Participants in the former (100 people) were asked to take a test to assess their genetic predisposition to alcoholism and associated health risks. The study identified genetic variants of two enzymes involved in the oxidation of alcohol and its metabolites: alcohol dehydrogenase 1B (ADH1B) and aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) by saliva analysis.

All participants were also asked to complete questionnaires about drinking alcohol, and to take the AUDIT-C test to assess the severity of alcohol abuse and the presence of alcohol dependence. From this information, the researchers calculated the average daily amount drunk at baseline, three and six months of follow-up.

After about a month, those who took the genetic test were counselled face-to-face or online about the results of the tests and their alcohol use. Volunteers in the control group were given traditional educational materials about the harms of alcohol abuse.

After examining the data provided by the participants, the researchers found that three and six months after starting the programme, average alcohol consumption was significantly reduced from baseline in the intervention group, but not in the control group. In addition, those who received genetic test counselling showed more pronounced reductions in AUDIT-C test scores.

The lower alcohol consumption in the intervention group persisted after six months, but by this time the positive effect had waned: the difference in results with the control participants was no longer significant.

Despite this and the limitations of national composition and the fact that more than 20 per cent of participants in each group did not complete follow-up, the researchers were positive about the results. According to the authors of the scientific paper published in the journal BMC Medicine, the chosen tactic with genetic testing proved to be effective and can be used to prevent alcohol abuse among young people.

Found a typo? Select it and press ctrl + enter Print version