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Researchers Warn Us that Alcohol Damages Cells

By Sandy Schroeder

Sometimes science can take the fun out of everything. If you enjoy wine with dinner, or beers with your friends after work, the latest news from researchers may raise a few cautionary flags for the future as we age.

The more alcohol people drink, the faster their cells appear to age, according to researchers from Japan's Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine.

They studied alcoholics and found they had shortened telomeres, putting them at greater risk for illnesses associated with age such as heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

What Are Telomeres?

"Telomeres are protein caps on the ends of chromosomes, that act as markers of aging and overall health," according to Naruhisa Yamaki, M.D.  

Yamaki said, “Chromosomes, which protect genes, get shorter every time a cell divides. When a chromosome gets too short, it dies. The study showed alcoholic patients have a shortened telomere length, which indicates heavy drinking causes biological aging at a cellular level.”

The Japanese researchers assembled 255 people to study; 134 were alcoholics, and 121 were non-alcoholics, matched in ages from 40 to 85. They reviewed histories of drinking with each participant.

They also found a relationship between shortened telomeres and thiamine, which is a B vitamin.

Considering the implications for all of us as we age, another related study was done by King’s College London. It found 1 in 5 seniors in their study drank excessively.

With the growing numbers of baby boomers who will be moving into our senior population, these studies suggest alcohol may figure into health results for many seniors.

Overview for All of Us

Looking more closely at daily drinking patterns for all ages, more and more studies are pointing up the dangers of excessive drinking.

We will probably be hearing more about telomeres too, as other studies explore what other bad habits, such as cigarettes or drugs, do to telomeres. A few years ago, I worked closely with several university scientists. Many of them were presenting studies on telomeres. At the time, the research seemed to be rather unrelated to daily life. Now it seems much more relevant.

We should all follow the research as it develops. That glass of red wine at dinner may still be heathy, but we will have to see where telomere research goes. Hopefully, we'll live long enough to find out. 

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Spring, Tex.

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