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Longevity and Alcohol: Exploring The Complex Connection

Article written by A4M on November 18, 2022 by Zuzanna Walter. Read the original article, here

Even though drinking alcohol is common among the population, current research has not provided a definitive answer as to the health benefits and consequences of drinking alcohol. On the one hand, drinking alcohol has been repeatedly discussed in scientific papers as protective against certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, and light-to-moderate alcohol intake has even been related to reduced mortality risks. On the other hand, several studies suggest that even moderate amounts of alcohol can have a detrimental impact on health, and in most cases, the substance causes more harm than good.

The complexity of the risk relationship between alcohol, health, and longevity continues to confuse patients and clinicians and remains a subject of intense research and controversy. There are very few studies available on the connection between alcohol and longevity, but emerging scientific findings aim to add to the body of knowledge and outline the adverse effects of alcohol on biological aging.

Modest Drinking: Are There Health Benefits?

A 2022 study published in Scientific Reports aimed to clarify the risks and benefits associated with modest drinking, defined as drinking no more than one alcoholic beverage a day. Its findings revealed that 23% of modest male drinkers gained 0.94 years in life over their non-drinking counterparts and had an 8% reduction in adjusted all-cause mortality. In the 59% of modest drinkers who also smoked, the combined effect shortened life by two years.

Contrastingly, regular drinkers – those who consumed more than one alcoholic beverage per day – had a 43% increase in overall mortality and lost 6.9 years of life. In the regular drinker cohort, smoking and drinking led to 10.3 years of shortened lifespan.

Modest drinkers also experienced a two to fourfold increase in oral and esophageal cancer risk, which negated the gain of one life year, thereby erasing any longevity benefits. Additionally, drinkers are prone to crossing the line of moderate consumption and face potential substantial decreases in life expectancy.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Life Expectancy

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol has been linked to various negative health consequences, including heightened risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver disease, weakened immune system, cognitive impairment, and mental illness. High-risk or excessive drinking is considered:

  • Four or more drinks in one day or eight or more drinks per week for women
  • Five or more drinks in one day or 15 or more drinks per week for men
  • Binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks over two hours for women and five or more drinks over two hours for men

High alcohol consumption or above moderate-level drinking can adversely affect life expectancy. According to a 2016 Lancet study of 600,000 drinkers, participants who consume 10-15 drinks per week experience an average lifespan reduction of 1-2 years. Meanwhile, those who exceed 18 weekly drinks can lose 4-5 years of their lives.

Alcohol Consumption in Later Life, Effects on Reaching Longevity

Researchers continue to study whether light-to-moderate alcohol consumption can reduce mortality. In 2020, a group of investigators in the Netherlands conducted a cohort study examining the relationship between alcohol consumption and the probability of reaching 90 years of age.

Per the results of their study published in Age Ageing, there was a statistically significant positive association between baseline alcohol intake and the probability of reaching 90 years of age in both men and women. Interestingly, the highest probability of reaching 90 was found in participants consuming 5-<15 g/d alcohol compared with abstainers.

Furthermore, specific types of alcohol were associated with varying results between men and women. For example, wine intake was positively associated with longevity in women, whereas liquor was positively associated with longevity in men and, inversely in women. Binge drinking, on the other hand, was connected to an inverse relationship with longevity in both sexes.

Alcohol-Related DNA Damage and Shortened Telomeres

A newly published study aimed to further elucidate the detrimental health effects of alcohol by examining its relationship to biological aging and longevity. Researchers from Oxford Population Health conducted the first-ever genetic study on the association between alcohol consumption and telomere length, a potential biological aging marker. Previous research has linked shorter telomere lengths with several aging-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and coronary artery disease.

According to the most recent study’s results published in Molecular Psychiatry, there was a significant association between high alcohol intake and shorter leucocyte telomere length. Drinking more than 29 units (approximately ten glasses of wine) per week was associated with one to two years of age-related change in telomere length compared with drinking less than six units weekly. Individuals with a diagnosed alcohol-use disorder had significantly shorter telomere lengths than controls, approximately three to six years of age-related change.

An association between genetically-predicted alcohol consumption and telomere length was also reported; however, it was only significant in participants who drank more than 17 units per week. This correlation may indicate a minimum threshold of alcohol consumption beyond which telomere damage begins.

Although these results do not conclusively prove that alcohol directly affects telomere length, one significant study finding supports this argument: the effects were only reported in current drinkers and not in previous or never-drinkers. According to the authors, alcohol’s influence on telomere length may be explained by increased oxidate stress and inflammation, although further research is needed to ascertain the biological mechanisms involved.

Is It Worth The Risk?

Overall, the research on the impact of alcohol on health and longevity is far from conclusive and challenging to interpret. Causal mechanisms remain unclear, and data on alcohol and longevity is sparse. While some studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to a slight increase in life expectancy, others have found significant correlations between alcohol intake and increased all-cause mortality, age-related diseases, and biological aging. What does seem to be clear, however, is that the risks associated with drinking alcohol, especially at levels above one drink per day, far outweigh any potential benefits. After all, numerous other ways exist to improve health and promote longevity without risking the damaging health effects of routine alcohol consumption.

Please call the Burick Center at 717-730-9000 to learn more about how we can help you achieve a lifestyle of longevity through our Total Health Assessment, Impactful Therapies and Concierge Services.

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Burick Center Staff MemberTracy Koval

Office Manager

Tracy joined the Burick Center for Health & Wellness in June of 2016 to help patients by managing various aspects of the office. Tracy brings more than three decades of medical office experience as the former office manager of a multi-specialty group and also works on a part-time basis as a Patient Service Rep at a local urgent care center.

Tracy’s favorite part of working in a medical practice is the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life by helping them navigate through the maze of health care. She loves being part of the dynamic team at the Burick Center.

Tracy likes to spend time with her family. She has two sons, Mason, who is living and working in Philadelphia as a Sr. Analyst for a marketing firm, and Spencer, who works at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts.

Burick Center Staff MemberTom Baker

Strategy Officer

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Burick Center Staff MemberRena Geesaman

Patient Coordinator

Rena Geesaman is a Registered Medical Assistant who enjoys providing attentive and caring client service. She is very happy to be part of the Burick Center team where patient care is our number one focus.

Her goal is to do everything within her power to ensure every interaction leaves you feeling well cared for and perhaps even delighted.

Rena volunteers by serving as board treasurer for Carlisle Christian Academy. She also helps facilitate a program at River of God Church for single, pregnant girls which provides practical, emotional and spiritual support.

Outside of the office Rena enjoys hiking, traveling, tending to her flower beds, hosting meals on their back deck, enjoying time with dear friends, loving on her little dogs, and best of all spending time with family. Being fairly new grandparents, she and her husband Don are always happy to share pictures of their little grandson, Lucas. Feel free to ask! She considers herself amazingly blessed!

Burick Center Staff MemberDr. Peter Lu

Acupuncturist

Dr. Peter Lu trained and worked in New York City for 15 years and recently moved to central PA. He studied pre-med at Brooklyn College and attended medical school at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. Thereafter he worked in the inner city hospitals of New York City, and lastly had the honor of caring for people with his sister in Stamford, Connecticut.

Dr. Lu greatly appreciates open lines of communication as it pertains to questions you may have about your ailment and how acupuncture could help in the healing process. His intention to address your needs to the best of his ability.

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Burick Center Staff MemberLee Morand

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Lee has had the sincere pleasure of working in the Greater Harrisburg area for over 20 years. She relocated to Harrisburg in 1990 after completing her undergraduate degree in Nutrition Pre-Med at Cornell University. Lee received her first Master’s Degree from Shippensburg University. Her second Master’s Degree, as well as Doctorate, were both from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

She uses a Cognitive-Behavioral approach to guide her work with clients across the lifespan. She strongly believes research has shown that changing your thoughts does change your life. Her primary focus with clients is to reduce symptoms by assisting clients to achieve skills they can utilize in their professional, academic, and personal lives.

Burick Center Staff MemberHeather Motter

LMT, Massage Therapist and Back Desk Coordinator

Heather Motter joined the Burick Center team in 2018. A graduate of YTI Career Institute, Heather prides herself on using her highly developed skills to maintain the balance between mind and body. As a licensed massage therapist, she specializes in Medical Massage, Lymphatic Drainage, Trigger Point Therapy, and Oncology Massage.

Heather has a vast amount of experience working with a variety of patients. From a simple relaxation massage to a patient dealing with chronic pain, Heather is able to facilitate treatments uniquely designed for each patient’s individual needs.

Heather insists that massage is not just a relaxation luxury. Instead, her philosophy is that massage helps lead to a healthier, happier lifestyle. She encourages everyone to take the time to meet with her to develop a care plan to enhance their overall wellness.

Heather is a resident of Carlisle, where she resides with her fiancé, two sons, and four dogs. When she’s not at work, she can be found outside working on her back yard oasis, or volunteering at Speranza Animal Rescue.

Burick Center Staff MemberFelicia Miller

Nutritionist

Felicia Miller is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist who provides nutritional counseling and education to patients of the Burick Center for Health & Wellness.

She takes the science of nutrition with her extensive knowledge of food and coaching skills to create an easy-to-follow actionable plan for her clients to follow.

Recognizing that there are multiple components to creating a successful wellness plan, she looks at the whole person – their concerns, lifestyle, personality, family, and career. Listening to her patients allows for Felicia to find the root cause of their issue and not simply the symptoms.

“Being healthy goes beyond diet, food is just one of the pillars of a happy, healthy person.” Felicia goes beyond the traditional diet education- she coaches and supports her patients as they learn how to make changes in their day-to-day life.

“I’m passionate about whole foods and healthy living I strive to inspire you to make positive food and lifestyle changes – at any age.”

Burick Center Staff MemberAshley Weibley

Registered Nurse

Ashley is a nurse at Burick Center for Health & Wellness. Her nursing philosophy is one of holistic care. She is a patient advocate committed to clear communication, education and applying critical thinking and decision-making skills to help patients achieve better outcomes. She enjoys providing the highest quality nursing care in a respectful, healing environment. She has a personal commitment to life-long learning through formal education and hands-on experience. She appreciates that compassion along with innovative care is what the Burick Center for Health & Wellness is all about.

Ashley has an Associate’s Degree from Harrisburg Area Community College and a Bachelors Degree from Penn State University.

She is married and has twin boys, She enjoys spending time with her friends, family and pets. She has owned and shown Quarter Horses all of her life and continues to compete in her spare time.