According to a new study carried out at Tel Aviv University, caffeine has direct links to a shorter life expectancy while the humble beer…or alcohol more specifically…could help you live longer.
The team looked specifically at telomeres the protect DNA within the body, discovering that while caffeine seems to make them shorter, alcohol has a lengthening effect on them. Best describes as working a little like the plastic ends of shoelaces that prevent fraying, telomeres look after strands of DNA in the same way and prevent cells for deteriorating.
As a person gets older, telomeres naturally become shorter and continue decreasing in size each time a new cell is produced. Eventually, the cell dies when the telomeres protecting it become too short.
Scientists have long been aware of the connection between telomere length and lifespan, but it is only as of relatively recently that we’ve begin to learn how our diets and habits can affect the length of telomeres.
“For the first time we’ve identified a few environmental factors that alter telomere length, and we’ve shown how they do it,” said study leader Professor Martin Kupiec.
“What we learned may one day contribute to the prevention and treatment of human diseases.”
The purpose of the study was to identify whether or not environmental factors like pH and temperature had any effect on the length of telomeres – neither of which did. In the meantime though, the discovered that caffeine even in the smallest of quantities reduced the length of telomeres, while alcohol increased their size.
Of course, this in no way serves as anything close to a green-light on alcohol consumption and nor does it suggest that excessive drinking will lead to anything but hideous health complaints and early death. Instead, the results of the study highlight the importance of additional research in order to further education and understanding of the factors that can and do affect the health of our cells.
“This is the first time anyone has analysed a complex system in which all of the genes affecting it are known,” Professor Kupiec added.
“It turns out that telomere length is something that’s very exact, which suggests that precision is critical and should be protected from environmental effects.”