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Alcohol consumption

Heavy drinking linked to lower omega-3 fatty acid levels

Sunday, December 09, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: alcohol consumption, binge drinking, health news

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(NewsTarget) Male binge drinkers have significantly lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies than men who do not binge drink, according to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Researchers looked at 4,200 women and men, using data collected from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to compare the levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in their bodies with their alcohol consumption. They found that as alcohol consumption rose, EFA blood concentration fell. The correlation was particularly pronounced among men.

While it is possible that alcohol depletes EFAs from the body, the researchers believe the data indicates that heavy drinkers are more likely to make poor dietary choices.

"The changes we found indicate that those who drink alcohol make food selections in such a way as to decrease foods with this important nutrient," said researcher Norman Salem, Jr. "The binge-drinking men have decreases in the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids."

Binge drinking among men is commonly defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting, or drinking for the purpose of becoming drunk. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to brain dysfunction, and a low intake of EFAs may exacerbate this problem.

"The brain depends on a supply of omega-3," Salem said. "The brains of men consuming high levels of alcohol, particularly those who regularly binge drink, are further compromised by a low intake of EFA."

"EFAs also have many biological functions, and a lack of them leads to loss of growth and development, infertility, and a host of physiological and biochemical abnormalities," he said.

Omega-3 fatty acids can come from a variety of dietary sources, particularly flaxseeds, chia seeds and oily fish. Other sources include walnuts and certain seeds, acai palm fruit, certain microalgae and krill.

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