A biomarker found in the blood of alcohol users is significantly higher in binge drinkers than in those who consume alcohol moderately, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The biomarker, called phosphatidylethanol (PEth), could be used to screen young adults for harmful or heavy drinking such as binge drinking.
Having performed extensive research on alcohol and its effects on health throughout her career, Mariann Piano, professor and head of the department of biobehavioral health science in the UIC College of Nursing, knew PEth is a biomarker associated with alcohol consumption, but it had never been measured in young adults.
“Binge drinking is pervasive on college campuses and among young adults,” Piano said. “More alarming, though, is the regularity of binge drinking episodes: one in five students report three or more binge drinking episodes in the prior two weeks.”
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or above. This typically occurs when men consume five or more drinks in about two hours. For women, it’s consuming four or more drinks in the same time period.
Piano and co-investigator Shane Phillips, associate professor of physical therapy, measured PEth in blood samples from student participants at two large Midwestern university campuses. Participants were part of a larger ongoing study examining the cardiovascular effects of binge drinking.
Participants completed a 10-question self-assessment survey to determine their drinking patterns. After the questionnaires were reviewed, the subjects were divided into three groups: abstainers, moderate drinkers and binge drinkers.
Abstainers had not had more than one drink per month in the past two to three years. For men, moderate drinking was defined as consuming three drinks or less per sitting one to two times per week in the past five years. For women, the number of drinks was two. Binge drinkers must have had at least two episodes of heavy drinking in one sitting in the last month.
The majority of participants were Caucasian females. The majority of moderate and binge drinkers were Caucasian, while abstainers were predominantly Asian.
Following the self-assessment, blood was drawn from each participant to measure blood alcohol levels and PEth. Five blood spots were placed on cards to be dried and measured against the whole blood samples in an off-site drug testing laboratory.
“We discovered a significant correlation between PEth levels in both the whole blood and dried blood samples and the number of times subjects consumed four to five drinks in one sitting within the last 30 days,” Piano said.
The PEth levels in the blood also positively correlated with the self-assessment survey scores, Piano said. “Using a biomarker of heavy alcohol consumption such as PEth along with self-reporting could provide an objective measure for use in research, screening and treatment of hazardous alcohol use among young adults,” she said.
Piano and Phillips were assisted by Stephanie Tiwari, department of biobehavioral health science, and Lauren Nevoral in the department of physical therapy, both of UIC. The research, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, was funded through an Ignite Proposal Development Grant from UIC’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.
Source: University of Illinois at Chicago
Published on 24th July 2015
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Lipid enzyme heightens insulin sensitivity and shows promise as potential therapy to treat Type 2 diabetes, study shows
Reducing high concentrations of a fatty molecule that is commonly found in people with diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease rapidly improves insulin sensitivity, UT Southwestern Medical Center diabetes researchers have found.
Insulin is a crucial hormone that helps the body convert sugar into energy, absorb nutrients, and reduce the storage of sugars as fat. Poor insulin sensitivity reduces the effectiveness of these processes and results in diabetes and fatty liver disease. UT Southwestern researchers showed that introducing an enzyme called ceramidase in diabetic mice returned their insulin sensitivity to normal.
“Lowering ceramides may also make people more insulin-sensitive,” said study senior author Dr. Philipp Scherer, Director of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research at UT Southwestern. “Our findings suggest a new means to potentially treat Type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Though no such therapy currently exists, Dr. Scherer said a drug form of the enzyme ceramidase likely could be developed.
The findings are outlined in the journal Cell Metabolism.
When more fatty acids are consumed than the body burns off, some excess fat is converted to ceramide. When too much ceramide builds up, the lipid interferes with insulin signaling, resulting in insulin resistance and possibly diabetes or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
“It is a nasty lipid at times,” said Dr. Scherer, Professor of Internal Medicine and Cell Biology who holds the Gifford O. Touchstone, Jr. and Randolph G. Touchstone Distinguished Chair in Diabetes Research. “If we can lower ceramide, then we believe the body’s metabolism will return to normal.”
In their new study, the scientists showed that inducing ceramidase in the diabetic mice triggered degradation of ceramide in both fat tissue and the liver. This action then normalized insulin sensitivity and had the same beneficial effect when ceramidase was induced in the liver or fat cells. Excess ceramide was converted into sphingosine, another lipid byproduct. Both ceramide and sphingosine are energy sources, but the two lipids have contrary metabolic signaling power. Too much ceramide signals insulin resistance and inflammation, while more sphingosine does the opposite.
“This research suggests the existence of a rapidly acting “cross talk” between liver and adipose (fat) tissue in which ceramide and sphingosine critically regulate glucose metabolism and the uptake of lipids by the liver,” Dr. Scherer said.
Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Published on 16th July 2015
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