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Cheers to Science: Alcohol May Help Flush Out Arsenic from the Body

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Arsenic is everywhere in the environment and is a top-tier carcinogen for humans, posing serious health risks through food, water, and soil exposure. Grasping the factors that affect how it’s absorbed and stored in our bodies is key to evaluating the related health dangers. While alcohol consumption is common across the globe and known for its various health effects, its interplay with how arsenic is absorbed and its resulting toxicity has been largely overlooked until this recent study.

A pivotal study, published in Eco-Environment & Health, sheds light on the complex impact of alcohol consumption on arsenic bioavailability and how it accumulates in tissues. It investigates how alcohol changes the gut microbiota and intestinal barriers, influencing how arsenic is absorbed and distributed throughout the body.

In this pioneering study, researchers investigated how alcohol affects the body’s processing of arsenic, a widespread environmental poison. Mice were given arsenate-enriched diets and daily amounts of Chinese liquor, simulating human alcohol intake. Interestingly, while alcohol boosted arsenic absorption in the gut, it surprisingly lessened its buildup in crucial organs. This unexpected effect stems from alcohol’s damage to intestinal barriers and changes in gut microflora, which increases arsenic’s entry into the bloodstream.

Crucially, alcohol also increased kidney filtration and lowered antidiuretic hormone levels, leading to more arsenic being flushed out via urine. Essentially, alcohol accelerates arsenic’s exit from the body, reducing its harmful potential. This study reveals the intricate interaction between common substances and their unforeseen health effects, providing a new angle on arsenic toxicity and alcohol’s influence.

Highlights:

  • Greater arsenic (As) oral bioavailability in mice with alcohol co-exposure.
  • Lower tissue As accumulation in mice with alcohol co-exposure.
  • Alcohol ingestion damaged intestinal tight junction and caused higher As absorption via intestinal paracellular pathways.
  • Alcohol ingestion reduced glomerular tight junctions and increased glomerular As filtration.
  • Diuretic function of alcohol consumption also contributed to lower tissue As accumulation.

Dr Hongbo Li, the corresponding author, emphasises the significance of understanding alcohol’s role in arsenic bioavailability. “Given the widespread exposure to both substances, it’s vital to comprehend how they interact within the body to better predict and mitigate health risks,” he stated.

The results indicate that although alcohol consumption might raise the amount of arsenic absorbed, it also enhances its removal from the body, possibly decreasing its buildup in tissues and lessening certain toxicity risks. This information is especially pertinent for groups exposed to both arsenic and alcohol, offering a detailed view of the risk factors and their interactions.

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