Alcohol and adolescence don't mix—especially not when the alcohol is in regularly large quantities. So said Loyola University researchers at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience this week, where they presented their findings, Science Daily reports. They've been studying the effects of binge drinking on adolescent lab rats, and report in the journal Alcohol that when blood alcohol concentration rises above 0.08% (the legal driving limit in many places) on six occasions, after sobering up and eventually mating, those male and female rats have offspring with certain genes turned off or on that aren't normally. And both parents play a role, not just the mother, reports Forbes.
Compared to the control population that wasn't exposed to alcohol, the researchers spotted 244 changes in the offspring of mothers and fathers who'd both gone through the binge-drinking routine; 159 when it was just the moms; and 93 when it was just the fathers. Many changes were in the hypothalamus, which governs sleep, stress, eating, and reproduction. In the US, 21% of teens report having binged on alcohol in the past 30 days alone, with numbers in the UK thought to be even higher, reports the Mirror. More than 90% of alcohol consumed by people under 21 is consumed on a binge. The researchers say this is the first study showing a molecular pathway by which a parent's drinking can impact future generations on a neurological level, and though it's not clear the results apply to humans, researchers think it's likely they do. (This teen died drinking shots with his stepfather.)