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Everything has been said about alcohol consumption. Probably one of the main beliefs is that women “endure less”, however it is a much more complex issue that we will try to explain today. According to a study led by scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine, a brain circuit that acts as a “brake” on excessive alcohol consumption can help explain gender differences in vulnerability to alcohol use disorders. In addition, there are other aspects to take into account and which together make women dramatically much more vulnerable.
The study was published at the end of August this year in Nature Communications, the researchers examined an area in the mouse brain called bed nucleus of Stria Terminalis (BNST). And that it is an important area in the network of response to stress and human activity, and the most relevant thing is that it is associated with the behavior of drinking. The researchers discovered that one of the key populations of BNST neurons had the ability to alter female mice more than male mice. And in a way it is a way of explaining why women are sensitive to drinking.
Although this study was conducted in animals, it is a highly relevant reference that solves one of the questions that for years have aroused the curiosity of science and many recurring drinkers. Another of the researchers’ findings found that distant groups of neurons connected to the BNST act as a brake on its activity and they have a stronger effect on female BNST compared to male BNST.
According to statements by the study’s lead author, Dr. Kristen Prair. Weil Cornell who is a professor of pharmacology in medicine: “This study emphasizes that there are gender differences in the biology of the brain that controls drinking behavior. When developing optimal treatments for alcohol use disorders, we really need to understand those differences. ” The truth is that for years alcoholism has been treated as a general problem, without any differentiation between the gender of the people and their susceptibilities to suffer complications.
Among the main factors that were taken into account, the researchers found that women tend to drink less than men. However, the researchers believe that this is mainly due to cultural factors and emphasize that in recent decades, the gender gap has narrowed significantly, especially among young women. In fact, it has been proven through various references that women can be inherently highly vulnerable to alcohol use disorders.
Although for decades alcohol has been associated as a male custom, which is in fact well seen by society; epidemiologists have noted that the increase in the commercialization of alcohol to women and the change of gender roles have gradually changed the imbalance of alcohol. In addition, in the last year derived from the Covid-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption in the world population has increased and, specifically, it has been proven that the most sensitive population has been women.
With regard to alcohol consumption before the pandemic, it is known that men are still almost twice as likely as women to drink excessively. However, it does not apply to younger people, according to a study available on the matter: women born between 1991 and 2000 now drink as much as their male counterparts, and their drinking rates could eventually exceed them. Women’s bodies are affected differently by alcohol than men’s bodies, for reasons that go beyond size.
The truth is that it has been proven that women not only suffer more and more the harmful effects of alcohol, national data show that the death rate from cirrhosis skyrocketed by 57% among women ages 45 to 64 between 2000 and 2015 in the United States., compared to 21% among men. And it increased 18% in women aged 25 to 44, despite having decreased 10% among their male peers. Visits by adult women to hospital emergency departments for alcohol overdoses are also increasing significantly.
The reasons? Scientists have discovered that women make smaller amounts of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which is released in the liver and breaks down alcohol in the body. Meanwhile, the fat retains the alcohol, while the water helps disperse it. So in the case of women thanks to their naturally higher levels of body fat and lower levels of body water: they experience an even more dramatic physiological response to alcohol.
According to one of the most recognized specialists on the subject, Dr. Dawn Sugarman who is a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and an addiction psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont: “That vulnerability is the reason we see an increase in medical problems in women with alcohol use disorders compared to men ”.
Another aspect that works against women is that they tend to develop addiction and other medical problems more quickly than men. It’s a phenomenon called “telescopic”: Women with alcohol problems tend to start drinking later in life than men, but it takes them much less time to develop an addiction to alcohol. Women also experience liver disease and heart and nerve damage more quickly.
Regarding the references that are had about the effects of alcohol on the body, we can say that they were not discovered until the last decades. Although for years, health services have warned society about the devastating consequences of excessive alcohol consumption; The first study on gender differences and alcohol was published in 1990.In fact, almost all clinical studies on alcohol were conducted entirely in men until the 1990s. This was in part because scientists were encouraged to eliminate as many variables as possible that could influence the results of an experiment. , one of which was gender. And since alcoholism was supposed to be a mostly male problem, naDie wondered what he could miss if he didn’t study women and alcoholism.
That changed when government institutions like the U.S. National Institutes of Health demanded that women and minorities be included as clinical research subjects, and critical gender gaps in medical research began to be addressed.
In the 2000s, brain scans of alcoholics seemed to show that women’s brains are more sensitive to alcohol than men’s. But Marlene Oscar-Berman, professor of anatomy and neuropsychology at Boston University School of Medicine, found an interesting twist on it. His team of researchers looked at the brains of long-term drinkers, they noted that male alcoholics had smaller “reward centers” than their male counterparts. This area of the brain, made up of parts of the limbic system and the frontal cortex, is linked to motivation; it is key to decision making and even basic survival. But in alcoholic women, reward centers were larger than in nonalcoholic women, implying that their brains were less damaged than their male counterparts. Undoubtedly these findings are somewhat contrary to the idea that women have been more susceptible to brain damage from alcohol than men. And thanks to this, today there is much research work to be done.
The interesting thing is that these studies come to demonstrate the importance of working on more specific references on alcohol, gender and addiction. Finally, excessive alcohol consumption is a completely harmful habit for any human being (be it a woman or a man), at any stage of their life. Specialists also agree that motivations, emotions and causes are usually different in each gender. Women are more sensitive to fear, high levels of stress, worries and depression. Not surprisingly, research shows very revealing data: Alcohol consumption in women is related to the relief of emotional pain, while drinking in men is more related to social pressure.
Finally, all these aspects invite doctors and scientists to consider the biological vulnerabilities that each genus presentsor, with the aim of creating increasingly focused and effective prevention strategies. Either way, drinking a lot of alcohol is a habit that impairs physical, mental and emotional health on many levels. In addition, to be actively associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular conditions, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, depression, liver and kidney damage and a long list of complications.
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