Category Archives: alcohol

Glutamate levels in the brain may be linked to alcohol craving

Craving consists of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral elements related to a desire to drink alcohol, and can be experienced during intoxication, withdrawal, and/or prior to relapse. Different types of craving are hypothesized to be associated with different neurotransmitter systems. For example, reward craving may be mediated by dopamine and opioids, obsessive craving by serotonin, and relief craving by glutamate. This study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to examine the correlation between craving and glutamate levels in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (LDLPFC) of patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs).emotions01

Fourteen participants (8 females, 6 males) underwent 1H-MRS to measure glutamate levels in the LDLPFC. Researchers also used the Pennsylvania Alcohol Craving Scale (PACS) and a research-validated interview method to quantify craving for alcohol and drinking patterns, respectively.

Although the study sample is small, these data suggest that glutamate levels in the LDLPFC are associated with alcohol-craving intensity in patients with AUDs. Glutamate spectroscopy may be able to help identify biological measures of alcohol-craving intensity and help with treatment interventions.

  1. Mark A. Frye, David J. Hinton, Victor M. Karpyak, Joanna M. Biernacka, Lee J. Gunderson, Jennifer Geske, Scott E. Feeder, Doo-Sup Choi, John D. Port. Elevated Glutamate Levels in the Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Are Associated with Higher Cravings for Alcohol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/acer.13131

heart disease & drinking

Can you drink if you have heart disease? Moderate drinking should be OK, if your doctor approves, but you shouldn’t count on alcohol to be a major part of your heart health plan.

“If you don’t drink alcohol now, there is no reason to start,” says Mark Urman, MD, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

It’s true that there have been studies linking drinking small amounts of alcohol — no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women — to better heart health.

But the exact link isn’t clear. Those studies don’t prove that the alcohol (whether it was wine, beer, or liquor) was the only thing that mattered.

Other lifestyle habits could have been involved, the American Heart Association notes. Or the important thing could have been nutrients that are in grapes, which you can get from the grapes themselves, without drinking wine.

“One drink a day is probably healthy for people with heart disease and those without it,” says James Beckerman, MD, a cardiologist at Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic Cardiology in Portland, OR.

But whether or not you drink, you also need to keep the rest of your diet healthy, not smoke, and get regular exercise. Read More.