26 july 2022

Alcohol consumption and telomere length: Mendelian randomization clarifies alcohol’s effects

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) beta = -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 beta = -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.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Burgess S.; Topiwala A.; Taschler B.; Ebmeier K. P.; Smith S.; Zhou H.; Levey D. F.; Codd V.; Samani N. J.; Gelernter J.; Nichols T. E.
  • Issue

    Mol Psychiatry . 2022 Jul 26. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01690-9. Online ahead of print.
  • Published Date

    26 july 2022