HealthDay News — Young adults who engage in just one bout of binge drinking may experience a relatively quick and significant drop in their immune system function, a new small study indicates.
It’s well-known that drinking ups injury risk, and this new study suggests that immune system impairment might also hamper recovery from those injuries.
“There’s been plenty of research, mainly in animals, that has looked at what happens after alcohol has actually left the system, like the day after drinking,” said study lead author Majid Afshar, MD, an assistant professor in the departments of medicine and public health at Loyola University Health Systems in Maywood, Ill. “And it’s been shown that if there is infection or injury, the body will be less well able to defend against it.”
The new research, which was conducted while Afshar was at the University of Maryland, found immune system disruption occurs while alcohol is still in the system.
This could mean that if you already have an infection, binge drinking might make it worse, he said. Or it might make you more susceptible to a new infection. “It’s hard to say for sure, but our findings suggest both are certainly possible,” Afshar added.
The findings appear in the current online issue of Alcohol.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08 g/dL, which is the legal limit for getting behind the wheel. In general, men reach this level after downing five or more drinks within two hours; for women the number is four.
About one in six American adults binge-drinks about four times a month, with higher rates seen among young adults between 18 and 34, figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate.