A genetic study of alcohol consumption in a large population based cohort and the genetic overlap between alcohol use and other health-related traits

First published: 09/05/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

Alcohol consumption has been linked to over 200 diseases and is responsible for over 5% of the global disease burden. We performed a genome-wide association study of alcohol consumption in 112,117 individuals who are part of the UK Biobank cohort and aged between 40-69 years. Alcohol consumption ranged from 0-102 units per week in this sample with a mean intake of ~15 units per week. We report that 13% of the variance in alcohol consumption in this sample can be explained by genetic factors. Thirteen genetic variants were identified which were associated with alcohol consumption including variants in alcohol metabolizing genes (ADH1B, ADH1C) and also variants located in brain-expressed genes (CADM2). Using genome-wide data we also identified traits which are genetically correlated with alcohol consumption. Significant positive genetic correlations were found between alcohol consumption and smoking, years of schooling and HDL cholesterol. This study characterizes the genetic factors which underpin alcohol consumption in middle/older aged British individuals and uses this information to identify traits that may be causally associated with alcohol consumption.

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Dr Toni-Kim Clarke