A common functional genetic polymorphism in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene (Val158 Met) results in 3- to 4-fold differences in COMT enzyme activity and dopamine inactivation rate. Previous studies have shown that type I alcoholism is more common among subjects with low activity COMT genotype (LL), compared with high activity (HH) or heterozygotic (LH) genotypes.
We studied alcohol consumption and the COMT genotype in middle-aged Finnish men (n= 896), who represented an unselected ethnically homogenous population sample and reported using alcohol during the past year. Average alcohol use in pure ethanol (grams per week) was compared between subjects with LL genotype and subjects with LH or HH genotypes.
Men with LL genotype (30% of all subjects) reported 27% higher weekly alcohol consumption compared with the two other genotype groups (p < 0.05). The difference remained statistically significant after a multivariate adjustment for sociodemographic factors and prior or existing diseases (p= 0.031).
The results indicate that COMT polymorphism may contribute significantly to alcohol intake not only in alcoholics but also in a general male population.