Your genetic make up may predispose you to drink more but may not increase your genetic risk for alcohol dependence, a new study has revealed.
In their study, researchers at University of Colorado have pinpointed genetic pathways and the genes associated with levels of alcohol consumption, but not with alcohol dependence in rats and humans, the BMC Biology journal reported.
The researchers used rats to identify the genetic pathways affecting alcohol drinking behaviour. They found that the drinking behaviour of the animals was linked to pleasure and reward pathways in the brain and to some of same genetic systems that control satiety and appetite for food.
Next, they directly compared genes involved in these alcohol-associated pathways in rats with the human versions of these genes in two male study groups from Montreal and Sydney to identify common genetic factors linked to alcohol use across species.
The findings showed that genes identified as contributors to drinking behaviour in the tested populations were not the same as genes found to predispose to alcohol dependence.
“We know that high levels of alcohol consumption can increase the risk of becoming alcohol dependent in those who have a genetic make up that predisposes to dependence. This is a case of interaction between genes and environment.
“Indeed, in our study we found that higher alcohol consumption in humans was positively correlated with alcohol dependence. However, because different sets of genes seem to influence the level of alcohol consumption, as opposed to propensity for alcohol dependence, we are confronted with great variation in humans.
“Individuals with a set of genes that predisposes them to drink moderate amounts of alcohol may still have the genetic predisposition to lose control over their drinking behaviour, and perhaps become alcohol dependent.
“Conversely, individuals with a genetic predisposition to drink high amounts of alcohol may not have the genes that predispose them to become dependent,” lead researcher Boris Tabakoff said.