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seeking a responsible alternative to alcohol©

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alcarelle

 

The forum for the research and development of Safe Alternatives to Alcohol - SARAA's

 

Alcohol abuse can break families apart

 

Alcohol is one of the leading causes of death in the world today among males under 50

 

To ignore the terrible harms Alcohol does to society is no longer an option.

By philipedwards, Nov 17 2017 02:32PM

Alcohol Awareness Week: seeking a responsible alternative

David Nutt


13 November 2017


Most of us are aware that chronic, heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking leads to a plethora of health issues including liver damage and addiction. However, many of us are still unaware of the dangers associated with even moderate alcohol consumption or the cumulative effects that alcohol can have on our health. So just what are those regular trips to the pub, or the frequent cocktails after work really costing us?


Research into effects of alcohol provide a range of results. Some research (funded by the alcohol industry) has even been claimed to demonstrate that alcohol consumption is actually beneficial to our physiological health. Conversely the International Agency for Research into Cancer has demonstrated that the more alcohol you drink directly increases the risk of seven common cancers including: mouth, throat, oesophageal, larynx, breast, liver and bowel.


Similarly, new research published in the British Medical Journal has revealed a potential link between moderate drinking and shrinkage of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory. These results suggest a link between moderate alcohol consumption and a potentially permanent alteration in brain structure.


The overwhelming majority of research confirms that there is always a health risk associated with consuming alcohol and the latest guidelines published by the UK Chief Medical Officer suggest that detrimental health effects can be seen with only a small amount of alcohol, i.e. no amount of alcohol is completely safe to consume. In spite of this, an extensive recent University of Sheffield study revealed a shocking general lack of health awareness in the general population, including that nine out of ten people were unaware of alcohol’s link to cancer.


So how should being aware of these risks change how we celebrate and socialise? Alcohol plays a vital role in the social lives of many people and practicing moderation would seem to be very beneficial to our health, reducing the associated risks. But to dramatically reduce the risks whilst also maintaining an equally fun social atmosphere, we need a revolutionary alternative.


We believe that scientific progress has opened the door to dramatic new possibilities. But to turn such possibilities into reality, we need to engage the very same drinks industry that depends upon alcohol for its success. We want to offer a practical solution to drinks manufacturers that they can employ to produce a wide range of attractive, enjoyable, ‘free from alcohol’ adult drink alternatives to suit every taste.


There is further development and food safety work to be done, including close coordination with the regulatory authorities in each national jurisdiction to ensure any future product fully conforms to food and health standards. This type of project involves laboratory work and clinical trials. The work is expensive and realistically must be funded by private investors, rather than academia or the public purse. To take this forward, a new company called Alcarelle has been formed.


Alcarelle’s goal is to raise the money required to then fund and lead the development of an alcohol-free adult beverage, which imitates the desirable features of alcohol’s pharmacological profile but without propensity to cause the disastrous effects of alcohol. The vision is a ‘free-from’ alcohol alternative that would enable a relaxed stress-free effect, calming inhibitions to encourage gregariousness and enjoyable social interaction.


Alcohol’s role in society is firmly embedded and ‘free-from alcohol’ alternatives would not be intended to replace alcoholic beverages altogether. Rather, Alcarelle’s goal is for modern science be enable the drinks industry to generate additional beverage options for health-conscious consumers. If Alcarelle is successful, making an easy switch to truly enjoyable free-from alcohol products could mean that an evening of social interaction with friends or colleagues at home or in the pub is no longer fraught with the dangers that we must navigate today with conventional alcoholic drinks.


Professor David Nutt (@ProfDavidNutt) is currently the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences at Hammersmith Campus.


By David Nutt


Categorised under Department of Medicine

By philipedwards, Nov 17 2017 10:22AM

Modern Brain Science … huge advances in our understanding


Over years of research our understanding of the complex way in which alcohol acts on the brain has advanced astronomically. These advances have paved the way for exciting new ventures into alternative adult beverages.


What we used to think

Due to alcohols sedative properties, it was initially believed that alcohol acted in a similar way to several general anaesthetics1. It was hypothesized that alcohol had a general action on the Central Nervous System (CNS) by affecting the membrane fluidity of cells1. This would then effect neural function and exhibit the characteristic behaviours associated with intoxication.


What we know now

The exact mechanism of how alcohol acts on the brain is still not fully understood. However, subsequent research revealed that alcohol modified the action of receptors on our nerve cells2. It acts on two key receptor types namely GABA and glutamate which generally inhibit and excite brain activity respectively2. Alcohol modulates these systems acting mainly as a general depressant of the CNS. Alcohol also effects receptors of other systems in the brain including dopamine, serotonin, cannabinoid and opioid systems2.


However, alcohol does not act on these receptors ubiquitously across brain regions, cell types and even within cells. This is due to the receptors themselves being formed of different combinations of subunits3. The different subunits in a receptor are responsible for how sensitive that receptor is to the action of alcohol. New methods using genetic research in rodents has identified that each receptor subtype can have a specific functionality4. Individual subunits can therefore be associated with a behavioural characteristic of intoxication.


How can we use this information?

This new type of research is vital to understanding how alcohol modulates the function of the brain to cause those behaviours we all associate with intoxication. This advancing understanding of functional subunits provides a novel therapeutic opportunity, for the creation of an alternative adult beverage.


Using highly sophisticated pharmalogical targeting we are able to take advantage of subunit specific functionality to reduce toxicity and unwanted side effects. These new therapeutics could be used to further our understanding of the action of alcohol; to develop more intelligent medications for addiction and also to develop a substance which would cause only some of the behaviours associated with drinking alcohol.


References:

1. Samson, H. H. & Harris, R. A. 1992. Neurobiology of alcohol abuse. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 13, 206-211.


2. Harris, R. A., Trudell, J. R., & Mihic, S. J. (2008). Ethanol’s Molecular Targets. Science Signaling, 1(28), re7. http://doi.org/10.1126/scisignal.128re7

3. Erdozain, A.M. and Callado, L.F., 2014. Neurobiological alterations in alcohol addiction: a review. Adicciones, 26(4), pp.360-370.

4. Mckernan, R. M., Rosahl, T. W., Reynolds, D. S., Sur, C., Wafford, K. A., Atack, J. R., Farrar, S., Myers, J., Cook, G., Ferris, P., Garrett, L., Bristow, L., Marshall, G., Macaulay, A., Brown, N., Howell, O., Moore, K. W., Carling, R. W., Street, L. J., Castro, J. L., Ragan, C. I., Dawson, G. R. & Whiting, P. J. 2000. Sedative but not anxiolytic properties of benzodiazepines are mediated by the GABAA receptor [alpha]1 subtype. Nat Neurosci, 3, 587-592.




By philipedwards, Nov 6 2017 11:38AM

Why alcoholism does not equate to bad character


Modern culture and bad habits


Alcohol is considered by society as both a desirable entity and a dangerous poison. Throughout history there has always been a fine line between alcohol being seen as a natural resource central to forms of human interaction in society, and as an invading ‘anti-social’ agent of intoxication.


Alcohol has become entrenched in society, it has evolved from a dietary staple consumed peoples long ago, as far back as the labourers who built the pyramids in ancient Egypt1. It then became strongly associated with religion and celebrations; offerings of wine and beer were made to a plethora of different deities across the world over several different centuries. We have the Roman Empire to thank for making intoxication common place and the invention of drinking games1. Plato famously encouraged young people to drink in order to learn the importance of moderation1. And we continue to see alcohol seeking behaviours today often initiated by social pressures.


The first sip... a slippery slope


Modern society continues to encourage alcohol seeking behaviours, and these often occur synonymously with cultural festivities2. Now established as an expression of social participation, the habitual consumption of alcohol is formalised, for example during festivities, or even daily to distinguish between work and play2. The social compulsion to seek out and drink more alcohol can unfortunately lead many an unsuspecting into an addiction. The likelihood of an individual developing an addiction can be influenced by several factors including genetic differences, environmental stimuli, and life phases3.

It has long been recognised that genes cause a massive variation in the metabolism of alcohol. In a similar way, genes can be critical in determining an individual’s initial sensitivity and reinforcement behaviour associated with alcohol3. Complex studies in rodents have identified key structural differences in the brains of those animals who seek out alcohol and those that don’t3. Long term alcohol consumption can lead to adaptation and long-standing change in the brain. This has been identified as the switch which can trigger compulsive behaviour (towards alcohol) rather than controlled moderation3.


The cycle of Addiction


In 10-15% of users this compulsion develops to an addiction with significant alcohol cravings. Over time the brain adapts. Long term alcohol consumption reduces the sensitivity of some neural receptors to alcohol; it can also change the composition of the receptors themselves.

Alcohol also has a huge impact on the reward areas of the brain and increases levels of dopamine and endorphins. This stimulates feeling of pleasure and also induces reinforcement behaviours.

This means that increased drinking can change the way that your brain is wired, so positive or rewarding feelings are not felt as strongly without alcohol consumption. Alcohol can alter the brain so that a stimulus previously linked with alcohol triggers withdrawal and leads to a craving.


So, addiction can stem from a drinking behaviour which is initiated by society and reinforced by socially moderated habit. The action of chronic drinking itself can then perpetuate addiction by changing the structure and chemistry of the brain. Alcohol is then the most widely used addiction creating drug, and the one causing the greatest harm to consumers and society. Yet alcohol continues to get a pass and moral crusaders will often prefer to blame the victims claiming that alcoholism is associated with weakened morals. But modern science helps us to understand that addiction can in fact be the disastrous culmination of persistent societal influence combining with a genetic and environmental vulnerability.



References

1. Boyle, Peter, ed. Alcohol: science, policy and public health. Oxford University Press, 2013.

2. Social and Cultural Aspects of Drinking Culture Chemistry and Consequences social issues research centre, 2016

3. Vengeliene, V., Bilbao, A., Molander, A. and Spanagel, R., 2008. Neuropharmacology of alcohol addiction. British journal of pharmacology, 154(2), pp.299-315.

4. Erdozain, A.M. and Callado, L.F., 2014. Neurobiological alterations in alcohol addiction: a review. Adicciones, 26(4), pp.360-370.


By philipedwards, Oct 30 2017 11:19AM

Harms of alcohol: Brain damage


From social buzz, hilarity and euphoria to slurred speech and stumbling steps and - for many dedicated revellers - irrational aggression and the occasional blackouts. This journey describes a classic night on the town. Nothing so serious that a good sleep followed by plenty of water and coffee cannot fix?

Many of us are all too familiar with the initial effects of alcohol on our state of mind. But what can science tell us about the longer term health consequences of alcohol’s effect on our brains?


Effects of heavy drinking


The effect that alcohol has on the function and structure of the brain can be much longer lasting than the temporary struggle to make it home without falling over. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to more permanent and severe conditions such as Wernicke’s-Korsakoff’s syndrome, and alcoholic neuropathy. Alcoholic neuropathy manifests as numbing of the limbs and the sensation of pins and needles. In 2014/15, 920 hospitalisations in England were due to alcoholic neuropathy1. Wernicke’s-Korsakoff’s syndrome is a disease resulting brain damage from thiamine deficiency caused by heavy alcohol use. This syndrome produces a loss of memory, vision, and muscular co-ordination2. Chronic alcohol abuse can also cause other serious conditions in the brain, such as depression, hallucinosis, alcoholic dementia, alcohol dependence, and increased risk of anxiety and depression1.


Moderate drinking may affect brain damage


Until recently it was thought that only heavy alcohol consumption could result in damage to the brain. However, new research published in the British Medical Journal3 describes a 30-year long experiment which assessed the drinking habits and cognitive function of 550 UK civil servants. The study culminated in a scan of each participant’s brain, and this revealed that 65% of those who drank only moderately showed evidence of shrinkage in their hippocampi (a brain region associated with memory). This new evidence also showed that increased levels of drinking were associated with a noticeably reduced performance when undertaking cognitive tasks. These results suggest a link between moderate consumption and permanent alteration in brain structure. While these observational results only suggest a relationship and further research is needed, the research does seem to contradict some findings which suggest4 that a small amount of alcohol can be protective against dementia.


The future of brain power


Alcarelle’s mission is to create a new adult beverage which will imitate the desired positive aspects of alcohol, but which won’t have damaging consequences on the brain. We are using new scientific research to understand exactly how alcohol affects and damages the brain. Our goal is an alternative adult beverage which will allow us to have fun and socialise, without the fear of future cognitive decline.


References

1. The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An evidence review, 2016 Public Heath England

2. Institute of alcohol studies fact sheet, the health impacts of alcohol, 2016

3. Topiwala, Anya et al. “Moderate Alcohol Consumption as Risk Factor for Adverse Brain Outcomes and Cognitive Decline: Longitudinal Cohort Study.” The BMJ 357 (2017): j2353. PMC. Web. 4 Aug. 2017.

4. Weyerer S, Schäufele M, Wiese B et al. Current alcohol consumption and its relationship to incident dementia: results from a 3-year follow-up study among primary care attenders aged 75 years and older. Age and Ageing [First published online] March 2, 2011

5. Manzo-Avalos, S., & Saavedra-Molina, A. (2010). Cellular and Mitochondrial Effects of Alcohol Consumption. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(12), 4281–4304. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7124281

6. Patricia E. Molina, Jason D. Gardner, Flavia M. Souza-Smith, Annie M. Whitaker Alcohol Abuse: Critical Pathophysiological Processes and Contribution to Disease Burden, Physiology Published 2014




By philipedwards, Oct 19 2017 08:41AM

Harms of Alcohol: Cancer


Resent research by Cancer Research UK has suggested that alcohol will contribute to 135,000 cancer deaths over the next 20 years1. The International Agency for Research into Cancer has demonstrated that the more alcohol you drink directly increases the risk of seven common cancers including: mouth, throat, oesophageal, larynx, breast, liver and bowel2. But are most of us aware of the risks? And what how can we use modern science to combat these risks?


Public misconceptions


A shocking study from a group at the University of Sheffield revealed that 9 in 10 people were unaware of alcohols link to cancer3. However, this was before a government revision of the UK drinking guidelines which highlighted cancer as a key factor in the amended recommendations4. Getting this information out to the public is a step in the right direction. Consumers should be allowed to make informed choices. For this we need to become more aware of the risks associated with boozing.


Science


To fully understand the risks and alternatives to alcohol, it is first vital to understand exactly how alcohol contributes to the development of cancer. Cancer is caused by damage to DNA within cells allowing them to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way5. Alcohol is broken down in the body by several digestive enzymes. One of the by-products is called acetaldehyde, a highly reactive and toxic chemical. Acetaldehyde can cause damage to the DNA in our cells which can then lead to cancer2. Seems simple enough… but this is not the whole story. In truth, the more complex intricacies of exactly how alcohol causes some kinds of cancer and not others is the next big mystery being tackled by researchers.


Why it is important


Despite these risks, and for good reasons, alcohol is a popular social tool which remains in high demand. Access to balanced information is a pre-condition to making informed choices. But equally important is having the availability of reasonable alternatives. IE an enjoyable social stimulant which is not carcinogenic. Alcarelle is committed to using modern science to develop an alternative adult beverage which is equally fun to drink. Our goal is a new product which will not produce acetaldehyde or other intermediate toxic compounds during metabolisation. Much work is still to be done, but we believe this pioneering technology has the potential to reduce the number cancer deaths due to alcohol over the coming years.


References

1. Impact of alcohol on cancer factsheet, Cancer Research UK, 2016

2. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Consumption of alcoholic beverages. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risks to Humans. 2012;100E

3. Buykx, P., Li, J., Gavens, L., Hooper, L., Lovatt, M., de Matos, E.G., Meier, P. and Holmes, J., 2016. Public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer in England in 2015: a population-based survey. BMC Public Health, 16(1), p.1194.

4. UK Chief Medical Officer’s’ Alcohol Guidelines Review, Summary of the proposed new guidelines, 2016

5. Alcohol and cancer, cancer research UK website



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