A new study has shown that excessive alcohol can result in irreversible damage to the brain by limiting insulin and a growth factor close to insulin.
A postmortem study of human brain tissue showed that excessive alcohol can cause reduced levels of genes that are necessary for brain cells to effectively respond to insulin/IGF. This disadvantage set off in the brain could lead to neurodegeneration akin to the type triggered in victims of Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Explaining the phenomenon further, Suzanne de la Monte, professor of pathology and neuropathology at Rhode Island Hospital said, "Insulin is one of the most important hormones in the body. It has many functions, including regulation of metabolism. Cells throughout the body depend upon insulin just to stay alive and carry out 'ordinary daily functions. The best known diseases associated with abnormalities in insulin's availability or actions are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes."
During the study, researchers assessed the brain tissue of six male chronic alcoholics and the same number of non-alcoholics with an average age of 57.7 years. To clearly comprehend the effects of alcohol neurotoxicity, the areas sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol - the cerebellar cortex, and cingulate gyrus in the frontal lobe were targeted for the study.
The study revealed that the regions in the brain sensitive to the harmful effects of alcohol, also showed marked resistance to insulin and insulin IGF.
The researchers also found that insulin resistance in alcoholics was similar to those suffering Type 2 diabetes. This also meant that alcoholic brain disease could be treated in much the same way, on the lines of improving the response of brain cells to insulin and IGF.
"Alcohol is a toxin that clearly can injure or kill brain cells. Fortunately, alcohol has to pass through the gastrointestinal tract and liver where enzymes detoxify alcohol, and consequently reduce the levels that reach the brain. However, in either high concentrations, or at lower levels over a longer period of time, alcohol will dissolve some of the lipid in the cell's membrane", de la Monte added.