People who consume alcohol regularly and in large amounts appear to age faster. But why exactly? Oxford researchers have taken a look at genes.
In the case of morbid alcoholics, it is clear, but less so in the case of heavy drinkers: those who like to drink alcohol often have to face massive health problems in the long run, moreover, they seem to age faster. It was not previously clear whether alcohol alone accelerated the aging process or whether the effect was due to the accompanying unhealthy lifestyle. Researchers at Oxford University have examined DNA sequencing for the first time — with clear results.
Telomeres: What role does alcohol play in genetic aging?
Telomeres replicate the DNA sequences that cover the ends of chromosomes and protect them from damage. Telomeres are very long when you’re young, but the ends get shorter with each copy. And the shorter it is, the older the external and internal appearance.1 Previous studies have linked shorter telomeres to several age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and heart failure.2.3 In other words, telomere length is an indicator of biological age, since each time a cell reproduces, 50-100 bases of DNA are lost. In the end they die completely. Does alcohol help speed up this process? That’s exactly what the researchers found in their study, which is now published in the journal Molecular Psychtry, for the first time.4
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Study with 245,000 adults
For their analysis, the researchers examined the relationship between alcohol consumption and telomere length in more than 245,000 adults from the UK Biobank. They used a genetic approach called Mendelian Randomization (MR), which was first used to study the effects of alcohol on aging. In addition, the scientists conducted surveys to find out how much alcohol each person said they consumed.
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Heavy alcohol consumption increases by six years
In fact, heavy drinkers had significantly shorter telomeres than people who allowed themselves only two glasses of wine per week. By the numbers: Anyone who drinks ten large glasses (250 ml) of wine a week is a year or two older, according to a university statement.5 Diagnosed alcoholics showed a biological lifespan of up to six years higher. You should drink a lot of alcohol to speed up the aging process — at least 17 units a week — but even dramatically smaller amounts do very different health damage by then (FITBOOK reported).
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Alcohol is aging faster – with serious consequences
The study leader, Dr. Anya Topiwala. Short telomeres are potentially a major risk factor for promoting serious diseases associated with aging. So alcohol actually directly interferes with genes, regardless of other factors. For the scientist, this result is especially important for clinical problems, because the famous Honors Cup does not seem to have any negative effects in this regard.
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What mechanism do researchers suspect behind it
Alcohol is a cytotoxic. Accordingly, small and even larger amounts cause oxidative stress and inflammation. This also happens when the body breaks down alcohol, that is, it is in the process of awakening again. Researchers suspect that the detoxification process may also contribute to long-term DNA damage. For Dr Richard Piper, Managing Director of Alcohol Change UK, the new study adds another important piece to the alcohol research puzzle: “The research shows clear links between alcohol and aging and helps to better understand how alcohol affects many diseases, many of which cause premature deaths.”
- 1. Vaiserman A, Krasnienkov D (2021). Telomere length as a marker of the biological age: state of the art, open issues, and future perspectives. the border.
- 2. Haycock PC, Hemani G, Aviv A (2017). Telomere length and risk of cancer and non-neoplastic disease: is survival the Ariadne strand? – to reply. Gamma tumors.
- 3. Schiller Madrid A, Rasmussen KL, Rod L et al. (2019). Observational and genetic studies of short telomeres and Alzheimer’s disease in 67,000 and 152,000 individuals: a randomized Mendelian study. European Journal of Epidemiology.
- 4. Topiwala A, Taschler B, Ebmeier KP et al. (2022): Alcohol consumption and telomere length: Mendelian randomization illustrating the effects of alcohol, Molecular Psychiatry.
- 5. University of Oxford (2022): Genetic study provides evidence that alcohol accelerates biological aging