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Ex-Heavy Drinkers Show Metabolic Changes

Study finds link between alcohol detoxification and sodium sensitivity

MONDAY, Dec. 16, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Heavy drinkers who put a cap on their boozing may actually upset their body's sodium metabolism, which could increase their sodium sensitivity and lead to higher blood pressure.

That odd finding comes from a study in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Researchers studied 18 alcoholics (6 women, 12 men) who entered in-hospital detoxification at the University of Parma in Italy.

The alcoholics' blood pressure and sodium levels were monitored during their first eight days in hospital. During that time, each person was on a hospital diet that provided them with 150 mM of sodium per day. That level is considered normal.

After a year of carefully monitored abstinence from alcohol, the people in the study were given four weeks of physical examination. That included measuring their blood pressure levels on three different occasions.

They were then asked to stick to a diet of 55 mM of sodium per day, which is considered a low level of sodium intake. That was later supplemented with 205 mM of sodium per day, for a total of 260 mM per day.

During their first eight days of withdrawal from alcohol when they were on a normal diet, the people in the study had high sodium levels, weight gain and an increase in blood pressure.

When checked a year later and during the subsequent changes to their sodium intake, the people in the study had significant changes in blood pressure and greater sodium sensitivity compared to a group of teetotalers.

The findings indicate that salt sensitivity plays an important role in regulation of blood pressure.

More information

The U. S. National Institute on Aging has more about how you can control your blood pressure.

SOURCE: University of Buffalo, news release, Dec. 16, 2002
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