A naturally-occurring protein in the brain could spell the end of binge-drinking, according to a new study.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming eight or more units of alcohol in a single session for men, and six or more for women, according to the NHS. However, this can vary depending on a person’s tolerance and the speed at which they drink.
Scientists believe the urge to binge-drink can be suppressed by harnessing a compound in the brain called Neuropeptide Y (NPY), and could also stop some people from becoming alcoholic.
Dr Thomas L. Kash, who led the study by the University of North Carolina published in ‘Nature Neuroscience’, explained: “We found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala (or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) that we know is linked to both stress and reward.
"This anti-drinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a ‘pro-drinking’ molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF).
“When we then mimicked the actions of NPY using engineered proteins, we were also able to suppress binge alcohol drinking in mice.”
10 best non-alcoholic drinks
10 best non-alcoholic drinks
1/10 Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower and Rose Pressé
For English summertime in a bottle, try this fresh flavour. Perfumed but not overwhelming, subtle notes of elderflower blend with a hint of rose petal to make a glass of guilt-free pink fizz. £2.29 for 75cl, waitrose.com
2/10 Little Miracles Orange & Lemongrass
Lemongrass tea is mixed with orange, ginger, ginseng and agave in this energising fusion of flavours. Non-sparkling, it is also available in green tea and pomegranate, white tea and cherry and black tea and peach versions. £1.59 for 330ml, hollandandbarrett.com
3/10 Shaken Udder Vanillalicious
Made with fresh British milk and real vanilla beans, this milkshake is smooth, creamy and delicious. Free from artificial colours and flavours, there is no fake sugary taste. £1.29 for 330ml, tesco.com
4/10 Unoco Raw Coconut Water
One sip of this raw coconut water will transport you to an exotic beach. It’s like sticking your straw straight into a coconut; the pure, natural flavour is worth the higher price tag, we reckon. £2.00 for 250ml, ocado.com
5/10 V8 V-Fusion Passion Fruit, Mango & Carrot
One glass of this vitamin-packed juice made with 50/50 fruit and vegetables serves as two of your ‘five a day’. The unusual addition of carrot and sweet potato adds depth to the flavour while allowing the sweet mango to dominate. £1.89 for 750ml, waitrose.com
6/10 BerryWhite Peach & Goji Berry
This still, organic fruit juice with white tea and echinacea extracts is tastier than most ‘healthy’ drinks. Sweet peach puree means that no added sugar is needed, so you can drink this one feeling virtuous. £1.69 for 330ml, ocado.com
7/10 Heartsease Farm, Raspberry Lemonade
Made on William Watkins’ family farm using British raspberry juice and their own spring water, this fizzy drink is perfect for alcohol-free parties. Serve in cocktail glasses for an elegant virgin drink. £2.29 for 750ml, ocado.com
8/10 Terrafertil Goldenberry
Many people will never have tried goldenberries, also known as physalis fruit, from the Andean foothills. High in vitamin A and mouth-wateringly refreshing, it helps keep skin supple during the summer and is great as an orange juice alternative at breakfast. £3.99 for 1l, hollandandbarrett.com
Great as a mixer with gin or vodka, or as a booze substitute on its own, this cucumber-flavoured sparkling beverage is light and thirst-quenching, with a sleek bottle classy enough to impress guests. £1.89 for 750ml, tesco.com
10/10 The Berry Company Green Tea with Aronia & Blueberry
Green tea has been celebrated as a tonic for over 4,000 years and, when you try this, you’ll understand why. Packed full of nutrients and antioxidants, it’s a 100 per cent natural, well-being boost in a carton. £1.30 for 330ml or £2.14 for 1l, goodnessdirect.co.uk
Scientists believe the NPY system could be used as a marker or treatment for alcohol abuse, as it is changes if a person drinks alcohol long-term.
The study also made “novel and important” discoveries by recognising how and where NPY “blunts binge drinking”, as well as how the system is compromised before a person becomes dependent on alcohol, said Dr Todd E. Thiele, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at UNC and a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies.
“What is particularly exciting is that these findings suggest that restoring NPY may not only be useful for treating alcohol use disorders, but may also protect some individuals from becoming alcohol dependent,” said Thiele.
The technique could potentially save billions worldwide, as when the financial impact of alcohol-related problems on A&E, GPs and hospital outpatient clinics is considered, the cost to the NHS of alcohol harm is nearly £3 billion according to Alcohol Concern.
The study comes after the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended that drinkers who have half a bottle of wine or three pints of beer a night could be offered a pill to reduce alcohol consumption.Reuse content