From Our 2010 Archives

Chronic Drinking Linked to Circadian Disruptions

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic drinking can disrupt production of the genes that control the body's daily biological (circadian) rhythms, leading to problems such as sleep disruption and mood changes, new research reports.

The researchers compared blood samples from 22 male alcoholics and 12 healthy men and found that the circadian clock genes in the alcoholic patients had significantly lower levels of an RNA molecule (known as messenger ribonucleic acid) that helps to manufacture proteins.

This indicates that alcoholics have lower levels of circadian clock gene production (or what researchers call "expression"), according to the study published online and in the November print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"In other words, chronic alcohol consumption was associated with a destruction of normal circadian clock gene expression. This altered expression is closely related to circadian rhythm dysfunction and might link to a variety of physiological problems, such as sleep/wake cycle dysregulation, depression, and even cancer," study corresponding author Sy-Jye Leu, a researcher at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, said in a journal news release.

Leu and colleagues also found that production of circadian rhythm genes was not restored after patients underwent early alcohol withdrawal treatment.

"This provides the first human evidence that chronic drinking can have long-term damaging effects on the expression of circadian rhythm-responsible genes. It also lends clinical support to previous reports of circadian rhythm dysregulation as a consequence of chronic drinking," Leu added.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Aug. 24, 2010