You don't have to be an alcoholic to experience liver damage from alcohol -- a new study in animals suggests that episodes of weekend binge drinking could also lead to liver injury.
Publishing in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, scientists from the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that binge drinking affects the immune functioning, neurological signaling and epigenetic characteristics of the liver of mice used in the study.
And even though these effects on the liver are worse in an individual that is also a chronic alcoholic, they still occur even if the liver isn't chronically exposed to alcohol.
"No longer can we consider chronic alcohol consumption as the only factor in developing alcoholic liver disease," study researcher Shivendra Shukla, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said in a statement.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that binge drinking is defined as reaching a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood in a two hour time span. For women, that is typically achieved after drinking four alcoholic beverages; for men it's usually about five.
Additional research shows that the liver isn't the only part of the body harmed by binge drinking. A recent study of college students in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that binge drinking is linked with risk factors for heart disease, Everyday Health reported.
And of course, binge drinking dramatically raises a person's risk of alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death, according to the Mayo Clinic.