Dry January might be over, but here is another reason to limit alcohol intake: researchers found that people who drink heavily are altering their DNA, making them crave alcohol even more.

In a new paper, a team of researchers from the Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Yale University School of Medicine found that binge and heavy drinking leave long-lasting changes to the human genome. The findings explain why people get addicted to alcohol and why it is difficult for them to quit.

The paper appears in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The Lasting Effects Of Alcohol

The researchers focused on two genes responsible for a person's control of drinking their drinking behavior: PER2, which influences the body clock, and POMC, which regulates the body's stress-response system. They analyzed and compared these specific genes in the moderate, binge, or heavy drinkers.

They found that the two genes were altered in binge and heavy drinkers through the process called methylation. They also revealed that binge and heavy drinkers showed reductions in the rate at which the genes create new proteins.

The researchers also included an experiment in which participants were tested after being exposed to alcohol-related images and beer-tasting. Their motivation to drink was evaluated after.

The team found a link between genetic changes and a greater desire to drink.

"We found that people who drink heavily may be changing their DNA in a way that makes them crave alcohol even more," said Dipak K. Sarkar of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, senior author of the paper.

Paving The Way To Treating Alcoholism

According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, 3 million people around the world died as a result of harmful alcohol use. More than three-quarters of these deaths are among men.

In the United States, alcohol has overtaken Hepatitis C as the leading cause of liver transplant. Excessive alcohol intake is also associated with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, stomach bleeding, and cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon, and rectum.

The researchers hope that their findings would lead to a better understanding of why people get dependent on alcohol.

"This may help explain why alcoholism is such a powerful addiction, and may one day contribute to new ways to treat alcoholism or help prevent at-risk people from becoming addicted," added Sarkar.

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