Chronic heavy drinkers getting a “potential metabolic reward as a consequence of drinking”

From the Journal of Clinical Investigation (link to abstract):

Increased brain uptake and oxidation of acetate in heavy drinkers

When a person consumes ethanol, the body quickly begins to convert it to acetic acid, which circulates in the blood and can serve as a source of energy for the brain and other organs. This study used 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy to test whether chronic heavy drinking is associated with greater brain uptake and oxidation of acetic acid, providing a potential metabolic reward or adenosinergic effect as a consequence of drinking. Seven heavy drinkers, who regularly consumed at least 8 drinks per week and at least 4 drinks per day at least once per week, and 7 light drinkers, who consumed fewer than 2 drinks per week were recruited. The subjects were administered [2-13C] acetate for 2 hours and scanned throughout that time with magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the brain to observe natural 13C abundance of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and the appearance of 13C-labeled glutamate, glutamine, and acetate. Heavy drinkers had approximately 2-fold more brain acetate relative to blood and twice as much labeled glutamate and glutamine. The results show that acetate transport and oxidation are faster in heavy drinkers compared with that in light drinkers. Our finding suggests that a new therapeutic approach to supply acetate during alcohol detoxification may be beneficial.


pic stolen from nydailynews (link)

What this means:

– Might be able to better treat problem drinkers by giving them acetate in their IV’s at the rehab clinic

– Problem drinkers might be genetically different to non-problem drinkers, allowing us to devise a test to determine if people are pre-disposed

– Scientists might be able to manipulate the oxidation pathway of alcohol to acetate in the human body (in the future) to allow us to drink without getting drunk, or use it to improve our metabolism somehow