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The short-term effects of excessive drinking are well known, but to date it has been less certain whether alcohol also accelerates the aging process.

Wine pouring onto brain from bottle © Mischa Hafferty

Today, researchers from Oxford Population Health  and the Department of Psychiatry have published results from a new genetic-based analysis which suggest that alcohol directly accelerates ageing by shortening telomeres. The findings are published today in Molecular Psychiatry. Read the Full Story on the University's News Page

Primary Investigator, Dr Anya Topiwala from Oxford Population Health, said:

‘These findings support the suggestion that alcohol, particularly at excessive levels, directly affects telomere length. Shortened telomeres have been proposed as risk factors which may cause a number of severe age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Our results provide another piece of information for clinicians and patients seeking to reduce the harmful effects of excess alcohol. Furthermore, the dose of alcohol is important – even reducing drinking could have benefits.’

Prof Klaus Ebmeier from the Department of Psychiatry, added:

'This is one in a series of Oxford studies in the large UK Biobank data set that suggest even "normal" drinking comes with a risk of faster ageing, impaired mental, and physical brain health. All who consume alcohol need to balance this against their potential enjoyment of having a drink.'Read the full paper Alcohol consumption and telomere length: Mendelian randomization clarifies alcohol’s effects.