View All Articles

Teetotaler Gene May Affect Alcohol Consumption

March 09, 2017

A recent study indicates that genetics may play a role in how much some people drink.

In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reviewed almost 48 large population studies and compared the genetics of 105,000 light and heavy social drinkers involved in the studies. Participants had provided genetic samples for analysis and answered questionnaires about their weekly drinking habits.

Researchers defined a drink as a small glass of wine or half pint of beer. They defined heavy drinking as more than 21 drinks a week for men and more than 14 drinks a week for women, while male light drinkers consumed 14 or fewer drinks a week and female light drinkers consumed seven drinks or fewer a week.

They found that people who had a less common variant of the β-Klotho gene were more likely to be teetotalers. About 42 percent of study participants had this gene, causing them to have less of a desire to consume alcohol. To further confirm their results, the researchers conducted a second experiment in mice. They offered mice who couldn’t genetically produce the β-Klotho gene water and alcohol. The mice who didn’t have the gene preferred alcohol instead of water.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption & Public Health

The researchers said their study could have important public health implications. Heavy drinking is linked to a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity. It’s also a major public health problem and causes three million deaths a year, they said, so figuring out a way to curb drinking or encourage people to drink moderately could lead to significant health benefits.

The study also could lead to the development of drugs that helps people control their alcohol consumption, the researchers said. However, it’s important to note that the study was done in social drinkers and not diagnosed alcoholics who by definition have an addiction. Addiction is a serious disease and when someone is an alcoholic they have addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or have a mental illness and exhibit compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol dependency. That said, I’m not sure how the suppression of the gene may help with this, but it is certainly worth evaluating as a means to help lower overall consumption of alcohol, which is a huge issue. It also would be interesting to see if people would take a pill to help them stop drinking, despite potential side effects. Overall, the study is interesting because it highlights the impact genes may have on our behavior. I personally think gene targeted therapy will be the medical culture of the future, and it’s only a matter of time before we have gene-specific therapy for just about everything.

Looking for more information?

At Orlando Health, we want to be your partner in maintaining optimal health—for you and your family. From routine well visits to the unavoidable sick visits, you'll enjoy easy access and personalized care you count on from Orlando Health.

Request an Appointment