When I told my grandfather I was going to medical school, he quoted an old German proverb: “There are more old wine drinkers than old doctors.”
Grandpa liked to say provocative things…
It turns out there is a great deal of wisdom in that saying. Moderate alcohol consumption maintains telomeres, recent scientific studies have discovered. And telomeres, those tiny caps at the end of your DNA, determine how long you will live.
Did you know . . .
Those are just three of many studies that have proven that moderate alcohol consumption helps prevent disease, improve health and extends life longevity.
Which leads to the obvious question: Why?
Until recently all we had were speculations. But a new study gives us a clue as to what may be happening.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University wanted to expand on Elizabeth Blackburn’s research on telomeres. Ms. Blackburn, as you may recall from previous House Calls, won the Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres in 2009.
The Tel Aviv team of scientists exposed the telomeres of yeast cells to 13 different environmental “stressors.” They changed the temperature, the pH (more acidic and more alkaline) and exposed the cells to different chemicals and drugs.
Two of those stressors you might encounter in everyday life had an effect. Caffeine shortened telomeres and alcohol made them longer.5
So it turns out that moderate alcohol consumption is healthy because it helps maintain the length of your telomeres.
Another study, at the Institute of Health Sciences/Geriatrics at University Hospital in Finland, confirmed this hypothesis.
The institute had been keeping data on alcohol consumption by a group of businessmen from Helsinki since 1974. In 2002, they decided to measure their telomere lengths. Those who drank just a bit of alcohol had much longer telomeres. The scientists calculated their bodies were up to 10 years younger.6
And when researchers looked at the famous Nurses’ Health Study, they found that if the women drank a bit of alcohol, their telomeres were 16.4% longer.7
This is not the first time you have heard that drinking a glass of alcohol a day is good for you. But this may be the first time you have been told why that might be.
So if you like to have a “cocktail hour” drink each day, enjoy it without worry. But the key is moderation. In all of these studies, only moderate drinkers profited. And by moderation, I mean one per day. This matters much more than the type of alcohol you chose.
Alcohol abusers (4 or more drinks a day) have telomeres half as long as people who drink one or fewer drinks a day. 8
If you enjoy beer, I recommend the low-carb variety. Low-carb beers used to taste like wash water. But today there are dozens of very tasty brews – even some which are relatively full-bodied.
If you like wine, try a muscadine. Muscadine wines have the most resveratrol. But if you prefer a Merlot or Cabernet, don’t worry. Any wine in moderation gives you the telomere benefits.
If you currently do not drink alcohol, starting now won’t help as much as taking a telomere supplementfor maintenance like Ultra Essence. Nutrients have a more immediate effect in your cells, whereas the overall protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption is something that works better over the long haul.
1. Kontou N, Psaltopoulou T, Soupos N, Polychronopoulos E, Xinopoulos D, Linos A, Panagiotakos D. “Alcohol consumption and colorectal cancer in a mediterranean population: a case-control study.” Dis Colon Rectum. 2012;55(6):703-10. 2. Costanzo S, Di Castelnuovo A, Donati MB, Iacoviello L, de Gaetano G. “Wine, beer or spirit drinking in relation to fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events: a meta-analysis.” Eur J Epidemiol. 2011 Nov;26(11):833-50. 3. Stampfer M, Colditz G, Willett W, Speizer F, Hennekens C. “A prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of coronary disease and stroke in women.” N Engl J Med. 1988;319(5):267-73. 4. Gaziano J, et. al. “Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in the Physicians’ Health Study enrollment cohort.” J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000;35(1):96-105. 5. Romano G, Harari Y, Yehuda T, Podhorzer A, Rubinstein L, Shamir R, Gottlieb A, Silberberg Y, Pe’er D, Ruppin E, Sharan R, Kupiec M. “Environmental stresses disrupt telomere length homeostasis.” PLoS Genet. 2013;9(9):e1003721. 6. Strandberg T, Strandberg A, Saijonmaa O, Tilvis R, Pitkälä K, Fyhrquist F. “Association between alcohol consumption in healthy midlife and telomere length in older men. The Helsinki Businessmen Study.” Eur J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct;27(10):815-22. 7. Sun Q, Shi L, Prescott J, Chiuve S, Hu F, De Vivo I, Stampfer M, Franks P, Manson J, Rexrode K. “Healthy lifestyle and leukocyte telomere length in U.S. women.” PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e38374. 8. Pavanello S, Hoxha M, Dioni L, Bertazzi PA, Snenghi R, Nalesso A, Ferrara SD, Montisci M, Baccarelli A. “Shortened telomeres in individuals with abuse in alcohol consumption.” Int J Cancer. 2011;129(4):983-92.