Alcohol and the Brain
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – For heavy drinkers, alcohol can be a difficult habit to kick. In fact, researchers recently discovered that heavy drinkers produce acetate faster compared to light drinkers, meaning their brains compensate more for the energy lost after drinking alcohol than the brains of people who drink less.
In the study heavy drinkers, people who have more than eight drinks a week, and light drinkers, people who have less than two drinks a week, underwent a brain imaging technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Researchers measured the participants’ acetate uptake and metabolism in the brain.
Acetate, which is converted from ethanol by the body after consuming alcohol, can provide energy to the brain as well as other organs. Since drinking alcohol can cause people’s blood glucose levels to drop, the extra energy boost from acetate almost works as a reward.
Researchers found that the acetate uptake and metabolism in the brains of heavy drinkers was greater and more rapid than that of the light drinkers. Furthermore, the acetate metabolism also created something called adenosine, which sedates the system much like alcohol.
After seeing that high alcohol consumption causes an increase in the production of both acetate and adenosine, enhancing these chemicals in recovering alcoholics who are going through withdrawal may reduce the severity of their symptoms.
Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation, March 2013