British researchers have found that drinking alcohol equivalent to more than five glasses of wine or 8 pints of beer per week damages DNA. Consequence: premature aging of the organism.

Drinking more than five glasses of wine per week damages DNA and accelerates aging

“A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away”. this adage, sometimes heard directly from the mouths of our elders, is obviously not validated by science. It is even the opposite.

According to scientists from the University of Oxford, whose study was published on Tuesday July 26 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, wine is not an elixir of youth . Their research attests to the damage observed on the DNA of regular alcohol consumers.

Specifically, the researchers noticed that the telomeres – located at the end of the chromosomes – had shortened in people who drank more than 17 units of alcoholic beverage per week. This corresponds to more than five glasses of wine or 8 pints of beer . 

Result ? Premature natural aging takes place, which is accompanied by a higher risk of developing age-related pathologies such as Alzheimer ‘s . “Our findings provide another piece of information for clinicians and patients looking to reduce the harmful effects of excess alcohol ,” said Dr. Anya Topiwala, psychiatry expert at Oxford Population Health and lead author of the study, in a press release.

DNA of 40% of regular wine drinkers damaged

In order to observe the effects of alcohol on DNA ageing, the scientists selected almost 245,000 profiles of Britons from the UK Biobank database. With an average age of 57 years, 51% of the profiles were those of men, and 49% those of women, broken down by alcohol consumption habits.  Most of the profiles studied were those of current drinkers, with only 3% having never had a drink and 4% having ever drunk ”, reports the Daily Mail. 

By comparing the genetic data of former heavy alcohol drinkers, and those of current drinkers, the researchers noticed changes in the DNA . 40% of participants who drank more than 17 units per week — more than five glasses of wine or 8 pints of beer — had shorter telomeres. This was not observable in consumers of less than 17 units. 

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Increasing alcoholic beverages from 10 to 32 units per week was associated with the equivalent of three to 6 years of biological aging .

To explain this deleterious impact of alcohol on DNA, the researchers seem to be ruling on the “increased oxidative stress and inflammation” produced by the breakdown of ethanol in the body, the statement read.

Cell death and Alzheimer’s disease

Located at the ends of chromosomes, telomeres are markers of biological aging, the study says. “Once telomeres become too short, cells can no longer divide and may even die,” the authors explain in the release. A Finnish study published in 2012 in the European Journal of Epidemiology had already shown that alcohol consumption, even low and in middle life, affects telomere length.

And such phenomena are not neutral. “Shortened telomeres have been observed as risk factors for a number of serious age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease ,” said Dr Anya Topiwala.

In any case, this is what we can read in a 2019 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology . The researchers claim that short telomeres are associated “from an observational and causal point of view” with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Note that other research, this time published in December 2017 , has shown that, conversely, excessively long telomeres are associated with cancer risks.

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