Even One Night Of Binge Drinking Has Serious Health Effects

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bingeembedPhotographed By Ruby Yeh.
If there's one thing I learned in college, it's that going hard has serious consequences the next morning. Of course, with a banana, a bagel, and about a gallon of coffee, I was able to bounce back pretty easily. But, a pretty scary new study published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that even one night of binge drinking can have pretty significant health effects beyond just a horrific hangover.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Massachussetts Medical School, involved 11 men and 14 women between the ages of 21 and 56 with good health and no history of alcohol abuse. Some of the subjects were given juice and enough vodka to raise their blood-alcohol content to 0.08g/dL (the level defined as "binge drinking" by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), while the rest were given just juice. Researchers then tested their blood for a series of compounds at regular intervals over the next 24 hours.

The results showed that those who were given alcohol had increased levels of endotoxin, which is contained in the cell walls of bacteria and is only released when the cell is broken down. The drinkers also showed evidence of bacterial DNA in their blood, indicating that bacteria from their gut had leaked out into the bloodstream. Furthermore, the female subjects who drank had higher levels of both endotoxin and bacterial DNA than their male counterparts.

Admittedly, this is a pretty small study, and many questions remain on just what it was about the drinking that caused the subjects' gut bacteria to migrate. Would any alcoholic product have done the same, or is there a specific compound in vodka that caused the subjects to react this way? Also, just what are these bacteria doing once they reach the bloodstream? Still, though, something about the idea of my gut microbiome escaping into other parts of my body is genuinely terrifying. Food for thought before you have that fourth (sixth?) margarita tomorrow night. (Science Daily)