Too Much Booze Damages Key Hormones

Could lead to health problems even after chronic drinkers stop drinking, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, May 14, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Chronic alcohol abuse causes severe and persistent damage to hormones that regulate electrolyte and water balance in the body.

So says a German study in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The changes in these hormones may account for some withdrawal symptoms and may also lead to long-term health problems even after chronic alcohol abusers stop drinking, the study adds.

The researchers monitored the major water and electrolyte-regulating hormones in 21 alcoholics who underwent detoxification. They were followed from early withdrawal up to 280 days of alcohol abstinence.

The hormones that were monitored were arginine vasopressin (AVP), atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and aldosterone and angiotensin II. Kidney and liver function was also monitored during the study.

The study found AVP levels were suppressed for the entire length of the study, while ANP levels were elevated for the entire time. The study found no persistent alterations in aldosterone or angiotensin II.

"We learned that we are dealing with profound, long-lasting alterations of key hormones of water and electrolyte balance notwithstanding at least nine months of controlled abstinence," researcher Hannelore Ehrenreich, Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine, says in a news release.

"These observations imply a number of causes and consequences: they may explain excessive thirst and fluid intake, what we call diabetes insipidus; may explain how alcohol-related cardiomyopathy develops; and may show that there is a subclinically impaired renal function in these patients which clearly underlines the concept of multi-organ involvement in alcoholism, that is, not only are the liver and brain affected, but basically all organs are," Ehrenreich says.

More information

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SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, May 14, 2003

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