Alcohol is known to cause a number of issues in our body – both physically as well as mentally – and now a new study suggests that may also be playing a role in making us age faster.

According to a new study by scientists at Kobe University, the more alcohol you consume, the more your cells appear to age. Findings indicate that alcoholic patients had shortened telomere lengths, placing them at greater risk for age-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia.

According to one of the authors of the study – Naruhisa Yamaki of the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine – telomeres are markers of aging and overall health. Also, every time a cell replicates, a tiny bit of telomere is lost and so as we age the telomeres get shorter. But some groups may have shorter telomeres for reasons other than ageing.

Scientists identified through their study that alcoholic patients have a shortened telomere length, which means that heavy drinking causes biological aging at a cellular level. It is alcohol rather than acetaldehyde that is associated with a shortened telomere length, scientist said.

For the study 255 participants from alcoholism treatment services at Kurihama National Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, were recruited. Of these 255, 134 are alcoholic patients, 121 age-matched controls or non-alcoholics, ranging in age from 41 to 85 years old.

DNA samples, as well as drinking histories and habits, were collected from all participants.
“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.”

Yamaki added that it`s important for the public to understand that heavy drinking causes telomere shortening because “awareness of this fact provides important information necessary for people to live healthier.”

So next time you reach for that glass of whiskey, you may want to rethink if you want to live long.

The study, presented at the RSA meeting, will be shared at the 40th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) in Denver June 24-28.