Moderate alcohol use healthy? Not at the molecular level...
A glass of wine every day is healthy, researchers have been telling us for years - until meta-studies have negated the myth. Recently, American scientists published a molecular study with the same conclusion in Scientific Reports. So it's official now. Moderate alcohol consumption has no significant positive health effect.
The researchers at the University of California at San Francisco used data from nine hundred American adults who participated in the Heart & Soul study. This study started in the late 1980s.
The researchers knew the lifestyle of the study participants, and therefore also knew which of them did not drink alcohol at all, who drank 'healthy' alcohol [Ideal drinking] and who drank more alcohol than doctors thought was healthy [Binge drinking].
On the basis of blood samples that were taken at several moments, the researchers determined how quickly the telomere length in the DNA of the study participants became shorter. Telomeres become shorter due to aging. The faster this decrease, the faster you age.
The decrease in telomere length says something about your lifestyle. The faster your telomeres become shorter, the less healthy your way of life.
The study participants in the binge drinking group had shorter telomeres when the study started than the other study participants. This effect was sustained when the researchers brushed away the influence of all possible other factors. The telomeres of the study participants in the ideal drinking group were not significantly longer than in the other groups.
An unhealthy high intake of alcohol [binge drinking] accelerated the decrease in telomere length. Study participants were classified as binge drinkers if they drank more than 6 glasses of alcohol on one occasion at least once a year. Even when the researchers had polished away the effect of factors such as obesity, smoking and diseases, binge drinking still accelerated the shortening the length of the telomeres.
If the study participants drank 1-2 glasses a day, and in the case of the Heart & Soul study were therefore ideal drinkers, the speed with which their telomeres became shorter did not decrease significantly.
"In summary, we found no evidence that any amount or type of alcohol consumption was associated with a longer telomere length or an increase in telomere length over time", the researchers summarize.
Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 5;9(1):1404.
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