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A Deep Dive into the Genetics of Alcohol Consumption

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04/08/2024
today.ucsd.edu

But the paper notes individuals with the alcohol-protective alleles also had worse health outcomes in certain areas: more lifetime tobacco use, more emotional eating, more Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism. Individuals with the alcohol-protective alleles also reported totally unexpected differences, such as more malaria, more myopia and several cancers, particularly more skin cancer and lung cancer, and more migraine with aura. 

Sanchez-Roige acknowledged that there is a chicken-and-egg aspect to their findings. For example: Cardiovascular disease is just one of a number of maladies known to be associated with alcohol consumption. “So is alcohol consumption leading to these conditions?” she asks. Palmer finishes the thought: “Or do these genetic differences influence traits like malaria and skin cancer in a manner that is independent of alcohol consumption?”

Sanchez-Roige said that such broad, hypothesis-free studies are only possible if researchers have access to very large sets of data. Many datasets, including the one used in the study, rely heavily on individuals with European ancestry.

“It is important to include individuals from different ancestral backgrounds in genetic studies because it provides a more complete understanding of the genetic basis of alcohol behaviors and other conditions, all of which contributes to a more inclusive and accurate understanding of human health,” she said. “The study of only one group of genetically similar individuals (for example, individuals of shared European ancestry) could worsen health disparities by aiding discoveries that will disproportionately benefit only that population.”

She said their study opens numerous doors for future research, chasing down possible connections between the alcohol-protective alleles and conditions that have no apparent connection with alcohol consumption.

“Understanding the underlying mechanisms of these effects could have implications for treatments and preventative medicine,” Sanchez-Roige noted. 

Co-authors on the paper from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry are Mariela V. Jennings, Natasia S. Courchesne-Krak, Renata B. Cupertino and Sevim B. Bianchi. Sandra Sanchez-Roige is also associated with the Department of Medicine, Division of Genetic Medicine, Vanderbilt University.

Other co-authors are: José Jaime Martínez-Magaña, Department of Psychiatry, Division of Human Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine; Laura Vilar-Ribó, Psychiatric Genetics Unit, Group of Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addiction, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Alexander S. Hatoum, Department of Psychology & Brain Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis; Elizabeth G. Atkinson, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine; Paola Giusti-Rodriguez, Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida College of Medicine; Janitza L. Montalvo-Ortiz, Department of Psychiatry, Division of Human Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, National Center of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, VA CT Healthcare Center; Joel Gelernter, VA CT Healthcare Center, Department of Psychiatry, West Haven CT; and Departments of Psychiatry, Genetics & Neuroscience, Yale Univ. School of Medicine; María Soler Artigas, Psychiatric Genetics Unit, Group of Psychiatry, Mental Health and Addiction, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Department of Mental Health, Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona; Biomedical Network Research Centre on Mental Health (CIBERSAM), Madrid; and Department of Genetics, Microbiology, and Statistics, Faculty of Biology, Universitat de Barcelona; Howard J. Edenberg, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine; and the 23andMe Inc. Research Team, including Sarah L. Elson and Pierre Fontanillas.

The study was funded, in part, by Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program grants T32IR5226 and 28IR-0070, National Institute of Health (NIH) National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) DP1DA054394, and NIH National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) R25MH081482. 

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Schedule28 May 2024