Drinking Ages Your Actual Cells

First Posted: Jun 27, 2017 05:16 PM EDT

Having a casual drink after work may seem harmless, but according to new research the more alcohol you consume, the older your cells get.

In a recent study, researchers found alcoholic patients had shortened telomere lengths, heightening their risk for age-related ailments, like diabetes, dementia, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

What Does This Mean?

Telomeres are small sections of DNA located at the ends of each of our chromosomes. Each time a cell multiplies, we lose a tiny piece of telomere. Which means telomeres get shorter with age.

"Our study showed that alcoholic patients have a shortened telomere length, which means that heavy drinking causes biological aging at a cellular level," said researcher Dr. Naruhisa Yamaki. "It is alcohol rather than acetaldehyde that is associated with a shortened telomere length."

Moderate Vs. Heavy Drinking

The Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture defines moderate as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Heavy alcohol use, however, is defined as binge drinking five or more days within the past month.

Low-risk drinking, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, for women is defined as having no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, low-risk drinking is defined as having no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

Dr. Yamaki's research also found a link between telomere shortening and thiamine deficiency, which can lead to neuron impairments like Wernicke- Korsakoff Syndrome.

"We also found an association between telomere shortening and thiamine deficiency (TD)," said Yamaki. "TD is known to cause neuron impairments such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Although how exactly TD can cause neural impairments is unclear, it is well known that oxidation stress cause telomere shortening and, thus, it is possible that oxidation stress may also cause neuron death."

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