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Indexed under : Medicine / Drugs

Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Alcohol and ageing

The length of an individual's 'telomeres' - buffer caps which mark the beginning and end of the DNA sequences of chromosomes - have been used as a measure of actual physical 'ageing' (as opposed to measurement in years). [ * see note below ]

As the telomeres become shorter during the natural ageing process, their buffering action is weakened, and errors become more prevalent during the DNA copying process in cell divisions. These genetic mutations can lead to cancer and other problems.

It's currently thought that various environmental factors - e.g. smoking and exercise levels - can affect telomere lengths. Recently (2019 onwards), a series of studies regarding possible links between alcohol consumption and telomere length (and hence on ageing) have given conflicting results. Some studies showing there's no appreciable effect, and others suggesting that there is.

A 2022 paper published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry performed a new study which found that some individuals with a genetic predisposition and moderate alcohol use could potentially lose as much as 3 years in lifespan.

But more research is needed to pinpoint alcohol as the single cause rather than other factors ( e.g. exercise levels and diet etc.)

Our findings indicate that alcohol consumption may shorten telomere length.“ [our italics]

Source : Molecular Psychiatry volume 27, pages 4001–4008 (2022)

If the findings are upheld, it may help to clarify the currently unexplained link between alcohol use and cancerplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigAlcohol use and cancer

It's known that regular alcohol use - even at moderate levels - can increase the chances of developing various types of cancer.

After several decades of research, the increase in risk is now widely accepted to account for around 3.5% of cancer d…

* Note: For several decades, the length of an individual's telomeres was taken to be an accurate measure of their degree of ageing - recent research, however, is suggesting that the picture is considerably more complex than was originally thought. See: Telomere lengths (ageing & disease)plugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigTelomere lengths (ageing & disease)

Telomeres are often described as the 'end caps' of chromosomal DNA. They protect the terminal sections of chromosomes from progressive degradation during cell division. Uncapped, the chromosomes would not be able to repeatedly copy t…


Also see :Alcohol and the cardiovascular systemplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigAlcohol and the cardiovascular system

"Light-to-moderate drinkers tend to display an overall better cardiovascular health and longevity compared with abstainers or heavy drinkers (Klatsky et al., 1981; Maskarinec et al., 1998; Gaziano et al., 2000; Maraldi et al., 200…


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