The more alcohol that people drink, the more their cells appear to age. In a new study that will be shared at the 40th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) in Denver June 24-28, researchers found that alcoholic patients had shortened telomere lengths, placing them at greater risk for age-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia.
Telomeres, the protein caps on the ends of human chromosomes, are markers of aging and overall health. Every time a cell replicates, a tiny bit of telomere is lost, so they get shorter with age. But some groups may have shorter telomeres for reasons other than aging.
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. 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.