Alcohol consumption and leukocyte telomere length

Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 5;9(1):1404. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-38904-0.


The relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality generally exhibits a U-shaped curve. The longevity observed with moderate alcohol consumption may be explained by other confounding factors, and, if such a relationship is present, the mechanism is not well understood. Indeed, the optimal amount of alcohol consumption for health has yet to be determined. Leukocyte telomere length is an emerging quantifiable marker of biological age and health, and a shorter telomere length is a predictor of increased mortality. Because leukocyte telomere length is a quantifiable and objectively measurable biomarker of aging, we sought to identify the amount of alcohol consumption associated with the longest telomere length and least telomere length attrition. Among over 2,000 participants from two distinct cohort studies, we found no pattern of alcohol consumption that was associated with longer telomere length or less telomere length attrition over time. Binge drinking may reduce telomere length. Using telomere length as a marker of age and health, these data fail to demonstrate any benefits of alcohol consumption, even when consumed in moderation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / drug effects
  • Binge Drinking / blood
  • Binge Drinking / metabolism*
  • Binge Drinking / mortality
  • Biomarkers
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Longevity / drug effects
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomere Shortening / drug effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Ethanol