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Genes can influence both alcohol consumption and dependence

has received little attention in the past because most studies have concentrated on either one or the other."

"We have known for some years that there are genetic influences on risk of alcohol dependence, but it has been challenging to separate out the extent of influence of a person's genes from the influence of their childhood environment," added Kate Conigrave, associate professor and staff specialist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. "For example, if a person has an alcoholic parent, their childhood may be traumatic, and this may place them at increased risk of later alcohol dependence themselves. Up until now, most research on the genetics of drinking has focused on alcohol dependence rather than the genetics of alcohol consumption levels. However, problems related to alcohol aren't confined to dependent drinkers. Many alcohol-related problems like road trauma and high blood pressure occur in those who are drinking above recommended limits, but are still in control of their drinking."

Researchers used data collected from three studies of Australian twins between 1980 and 1995. The 1980 study (n = 8,184) and the 1989 study (n = 6,570) examined items of alcohol consumption; the third study, begun in 1992 (n=5,996) and completed in 1995 with the acquisition of blood samples (n=3,378), examined items of alcohol consumption as well as possible diagnoses of alcohol dependence.

"In the people we studied, alcohol intake was reasonably constant across time and this was expected as a person who reports high intake at one time is likely to report high intake at other times," said Whitfield. "However, we were able to show, by using twins as the subjects of our study, that variation between people in their long-term average intake is almost entirely due to genetic differences between people. Secondly, we found that higher reported alcohol intake, at any of the three times studied, was associated with a higher probability of alcoho
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15-Aug-2004


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