Smoking, heavy alcohol use are associated with epigenetic signs of aging

Oct 12, 2015

© Frank Täubel / Fotolia

By American Society of Human Genetics

Cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol use cause epigenetic changes to DNA that reflect accelerated biological aging in distinct, measurable ways, according to research presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Using data from the publicly available Gene Expression Omnibus, Robert A. Philibert, MD, PhD and colleagues at the University of Iowa and other institutions analyzed patterns of DNA methylation, a molecular modification to DNA that affects when and how strongly a gene is expressed. Prior research had shown that methylation patterns change in predictable ways as people age, as well as in response to environmental exposures, such as cigarette smoke and alcohol. In these earlier studies, Dr. Philibert’s laboratory identified two specific locations in the genome, base pairs cg05575921 on the AHRR gene and cg23193759 on chromosome 10, at which methylation levels were highly associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, respectively.

In fact, they showed, DNA methylation levels at these two locations was a better measure of substance use than people’s self-reported estimates. Thus, in this follow-up study, Meeshanthini Dogan, MS, and Dr. Philibert used methylation levels as a proxy for tobacco and alcohol consumption. They estimated each person’s biological age using a previously validated epigenetic “clock” based on methylation levels at 71 locations in the genome, as measured by the widely used Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. Then, they calculated the difference between biological age and chronological age, and assessed the relationship between tobacco and alcohol use and premature aging.


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8 comments on “Smoking, heavy alcohol use are associated with epigenetic signs of aging

  • I stopped smoking thirty years ago, but I’m not going to quit drinking alcohol; I’m in the group which drinks three or four 30 centilitre glasses of wine very evening; I never touch the stuff during the day, not even at weddings and the like.

    There appears to be a gap of about eighteen years between my biological and chronological age; I think I’m fortunate enough to have inherited long telomeres.

    Life really is unfair, and by life I mean of course natural selection.

    Mind you, I’m vain and selfish enough to look after my genetic inheritance; I keep strict control of the balance between my nutritional intake and exercise regime; which sounds boring, but pays off in a number of ways; nod nod, wink wink, say no more!



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  • “Interestingly, moderate alcohol use — about one to two drinks per day — was correlated with the healthiest aging, while very low and high consumption were linked to accelerated aging.”

    If I understood this correctly, it’s best to have a couple a day, rather than have none at all? I won’t feel guilty now for having a small glass of malt whiskey of a night now!



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  • I never understood the thought process of deciding to become a smoker and or a heavy drinker- if one has a clear understanding of what purpose their lungs, kidneys and liver serve them. Such Vital Organs in their function of our health, but hay, lets pound down some booze, tobacco(and any other type of smoke)- I know peer pressure plays a role (which is why I had lost many friends in high school) I think Millennials have lost the skill of learning from the wisdom of others, and even better, live more in the moment of whats in front them, rather then thinking about what they maybe faced with, a few miles down the road (or path, of their life)



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  • Curious to know, if heavy use early on in life (teens through thirties) then stopping cold turkey on everything and becoming a health geek can possibly stop accelerated aging-



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  • Mark
    Oct 13, 2015 at 7:33 am

    “Interestingly, moderate alcohol use — about one to two drinks per day — was correlated with the healthiest aging, while very low and high consumption were linked to accelerated aging.”

    I think with a primate fruit diet, eating fermenting fruit probably has long-standing evolutionary adaptations.

    If I understood this correctly, it’s best to have a couple a day, rather than have none at all? I won’t feel guilty now for having a small glass of malt whiskey of a night now!

    . . Not sure about undiluted spirits!
    I think they have been responsible for many pickled livers!



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  • Mark
    Oct 13, 2015 at 7:33 am
    .
    “Interestingly, moderate alcohol use — about one to two drinks per day — was correlated with the healthiest ageing,

    Apparently not if you drink it while attending the UN Human Rights conference in Saudi Arabia!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34513096

    A UK pensioner caught with homemade wine in Saudi Arabia could receive 360 lashes – a punishment his family say would kill him.

    Karl Andree, 74, has already spent more than a year in prison since being arrested by Saudi religious police.

    The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said this was a “extremely concerning” case, and the government had already raised the matter with the Saudi government “several times”.

    But she denied there was any connection between Mr Andree’s case and the government’s cancellation of a £5.9m prisons deal with Saudi Arabia.

    Sanctions against human rights abusers rather than for powerful nations throwing their weight around, engaging in manipulative political economic warfare and skulduggery???????? Unthinkable Horrors!!!

    The Foreign Office website warns that penalties for possessing alcohol in Saudi Arabia are “severe”.

    It also warns of Saudi laws against women driving, adultery, homosexuality and drug smuggling – with the last punishable by death.



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  • Thought process: I think I’ll take up smoking. I could do with a new hobby to use up all my surplus income, and I’ll get to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t, huddled outside the loading dock of this office building in all kinds of weather. Plus think of the healthy exercise I’ll get trekking in and out via the stairs for each smoke-break. I sit too long at my desk, and what could be a better reminder to take a walk than that inner urge to top up the nicotine levels? And at the pub, instead of hanging around with my own friends all evening, I’ll get to mix and mingle with another group of like-minded individuals, outside in the smoker’s area. Remember those old black-n-white movies, the man’s always there with a lighter to ignite the lady’s ciggie, and then they talk and who knows what might unfold.

    Also on the plus side, there’s a good chance it’ll spare me from an undignified and protracted decline into senility, by making sure my heart and lungs don’t outlast my brain. I’ll save my family the inconvenience, not to say expense, of sustaining me long after I’ve forgotten who the bleep they are.

    Yes, I think I’ll maybe take up smoking.



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