50 years ago, alcohol use was linked to several gene variants

Excerpt from the December 24, 1966, issue of Science News

people toasting

BOTTOMS UP  Genes affect how much alcohol people drink, but researchers haven’t yet found all of them. There may be hundreds.

Minerva Studio /iStockphoto

A case for genetic drinking

Whether one drinks at all, how much and how often are partly due to heredity, [according to a Finnish study of 902 male twins].… A genetic element in alcoholism “seems highly plausible,” [researchers] said.… Surprisingly, genes also have much to do with creating an abstainer. Lack of control — which should resemble alcoholism — is no single gene, but a group of traits. — Science News, December 24, 1966


As the Finnish researchers predicted, how much or how little someone drinks may be influenced by many genes. A study of rats published August 4 in PLOS Genetics linked variants of 930 genes to a preference for drinking alcohol (SN: 9/3/16, p. 8). Many of the variants may alter how genes are regulated, rather than changing the genes themselves. Researchers still need to verify whether the same genes are involved in drinking behavior in humans.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

More Stories from Science News on Genetics