Alcohol consumption and telomere length: Mendelian randomization clarifies alcohol's effects.
Topiwala A., Taschler B., Ebmeier KP., Smith S., Zhou H., Levey DF., Codd V., Samani NJ., Gelernter J., Nichols TE., Burgess S.
Alcohol's impact on telomere length, a proposed marker of biological aging, is unclear. We performed the largest observational study to date (in n = 245,354 UK Biobank participants) and compared findings with Mendelian randomization (MR) estimates. Two-sample MR used data from 472,174 participants in a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) of telomere length. Genetic variants were selected on the basis of associations with alcohol consumption (n = 941,280) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) (n = 57,564 cases). Non-linear MR employed UK Biobank individual data. MR analyses suggested a causal relationship between alcohol traits, more strongly for AUD, and telomere length. Higher genetically-predicted AUD (inverse variance-weighted (IVW) β = -0.06, 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.10 to -0.02, p = 0.001) was associated with shorter telomere length. There was a weaker association with genetically-predicted alcoholic drinks weekly (IVW β = -0.07, CI: -0.14 to -0.01, p = 0.03). Results were consistent across methods and independent from smoking. Non-linear analyses indicated a potential threshold relationship between alcohol and telomere length. Our findings indicate that alcohol consumption may shorten telomere length. There are implications for age-related diseases.