Glucose Metabolism a Cause for Violent Alcoholism?

Many violent crimes are committed by intoxicated individuals, and the reason might be low glycogen levels. This finding suggests a totally novel form for preventing violent crime.

Glycogen is a result of a conversion from carbohydrates to glucose and then to glycogen, which is stored in the liver and muscles. This stored glycogen is then converted back to glucose when blood glucose levels are low, as occurs with fasting, or in diabetics when insulin levels are not properly monitored and controlled. If glycogen levels are low (also referred to as “non-oxidative glucose metabolism” by the researchers) , this mechanism does not function properly, as there is not sufficient glycogen to be converted back into glucose, and according to the current study, this can lead to anger and violence when mixed with alcohol.

49 “impulsive, violent, antisocial male offenders,” who were being released from prison and all in generally good health, were analyzed in the study. Various glucose metabolism tests were performed at release, and through eight years of follow-up.

During the eight years, 17 of the 49 subjects, committed at least one violent crime, and were seen to be closely linked to alcoholism. Says study author professor Matti Virkkunen, “usually, the new violent crimes happened already during 1-2 years after the release from prisons and with the new starting problems of alcoholism.” In these individuals, glycogen levels were seen to be significantly lower at follow-up, and insulin levels higher, than their non-offending counterparts, as well as a group of controls who had no history of violent crime.

The researchers believe that because alcoholics are known to have low enzyme glycogen synthesis in the liver, and subsequently low glycogen levels, this could be a major cause for acts of violence when intoxicated.

For drinkers with low glycogen levels and any tendency towards violence, some simple forms for controlling this aggression are proposed by the researchers. Increasing glycogen formations and lowering hypoglycemic risk, both through medication, are the most direct approach. Having healthy and regulated eating habits along with alcohol consumption could also go a long way in maintaining healthy glycogen levels, and limit the risk of violence.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Virkunnen, Matti. University of Helsinki news release. June 2009.