Alcohol Can Hurt Legs as Well as Liver, Study Shows
By Richard Woodman
LONDON (Reuters Health) - Long-term drinking can damage muscles in the legs and elsewhere in the body, as well as hurting the liver, according to a report released Tuesday.
“It is a common misconception that the brain and the liver are the two organs most affected by chronic alcohol misuse, which results in psychosocial abnormalities and cirrhosis,” said Victor Preedy and Peter Emery of King’s College London.
“Arguably, alcoholic myopathy (muscle damage) represents the most prevalent skeletal muscle myopathy in the Western Hemisphere,” they added in an article published in The Biochemist by Britain’s Biochemical Society.
Also, the authors note, this muscle damage could be just part of a disease process that affects the entire body, including the heart muscle and the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal system.
In alcoholics, they explain, damage to the heart muscle makes it function less efficiently, while smooth muscle problems can disturb digestion and impair the ability to absorb nutrients.
The researchers, both nutritionists, expressed surprise that medical textbooks devote so little attention to alcoholic myopathy even though the condition was common, preventable and largely curable.
There are a number of mechanisms by which alcoholism damages muscles, they add, including slowed muscle protein formation, changes in calcium regulation and the production of cell-damaging molecules called free radicals.