Exceeding the recommended weekly alcohol intake shortens chromosomes

Telomeres shorten with each round of cell division. Image source: KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Recently, a new study from the University of Oxford found that drinking more than 17 units per week (slightly higher than the recommended upper limit for Britons) can lead to shortening of telomeres. The findings were published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Telomeres are areas of DNA repeats that cover chromosomes, like plastic heads at the ends of shoelaces. Telomere length shortens with people’s normal aging, but worryingly, telomere shorter is associated with many diseases of old age, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.

To better understand the effect of alcohol on telomere length, The Team at The University of Oxford Anya Topiwala analysed the genetic information of 245354 participants in the UK Biobank study, aged between 40 and 69.

The researchers compared telomere length measured by participants’ blood samples to their self-reported weekly alcohol consumption. The results showed that participants diagnosed with alcohol use disorder were more likely to have shorter telomeres.

But this comparison does not indicate whether alcohol alone can cause telomeres to shorten at least to some extent, as other lifestyle factors, such as diet, may also affect telomere length.

To better understand the specific role of alcohol, the researchers repeated the experiment, using data from earlier genome-wide association studies to identify 93 genetic variants associated with increased alcohol consumption. The researchers designed a genetic risk score based on these variants and found that participants with higher genetic risk scores who drank alcohol were more likely to have shorter telomeres.

In both experiments, the researchers found that participants with higher genetic risk scores due to increased alcohol consumption were more likely to have shorter telomeres. But, genetically, people who consume 17 to 28 units of alcohol per week may also have shorter telomeres.

The UK National Health Service recommends that men and women not regularly drink more than 14 units per week, which equates to 6 pints of medium-intensity beer or 10 small glasses of low-intensity wine. In the United States, it is recommended that men drink no more than two drinks a day and women reduce it to one cup. ,

Topiwala says regular alcohol consumption increases oxidative stress and inflammation, which is caused by the accumulation of harmful free radicals in cells, which can lead to telomere shortening.

According to Carmen Martin-Ruiz of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, the study only calculated the telomere length once per person, and did not measure the telomere length of subjects at different time points, which means that it is impossible to determine whether telomeres will shorten due to frequent alcohol consumption. (Source: China Science Daily Xin Yu)

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