Oxford experts have found drinking more than five glasses of wine a week could speed up the ageing process (stock image)
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Drinking too much alcohol really does age you, researchers say. 

Oxford University scientists say anything more than five glasses of wine a week speeds up the body’s biological clock.

Experts examined data from nearly 250,000 Britons and found those who drank over 17 units of alcohol per week had shorter telomeres.

Telomeres are biological caps found at the ends of chromosomes which protect the DNA in them from damage, much like the caps on the ends of shoelaces prevent fraying.

These structures naturally get shorter as we age, leading to DNA becoming damaged and raising the risk of developing problems such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease.

Previous research, published in 2021, has also linked longer telomeres with less facial aging, such as wrinkles. 

Now the scientists have found drinking alcohol could also lead to telomere shortening, increasing someone’s biological age by up to six years.

But this was only observed in those who drank at least 17 units a week, three more than the NHS recommendations. 

Oxford experts have found drinking more than five glasses of wine a week could speed up the ageing process (stock image)

Oxford experts have found drinking more than five glasses of wine a week could speed up the ageing process (stock image)

Heavy drinking during the pandemic may add £5.2billion to our NHS tab and lead to more than 25,000 deaths, scientists claim 

Drinking habits picked up during the pandemic could lead to more than 25,000 deaths and cost the NHS £5.2billion, scientists have claimed.

A study commissioned by NHS England from the University of Sheffield found that over the pandemic, heavy drinkers drank more – and may never return to their previous levels.

Experts found that over-45s who were drinking at risky levels before the pandemic were the most likely to increase their drinking when Covid-19 hit.

Researchers said that in the best-case scenario – where all drinkers return to their 2019 levels of drinking this year – there would still be an extra 42,677 hospital admissions and 1,830 deaths over 20 years due to alcohol.

In the worst-case scenario, this rose to 972,382 extra admissions and 25,192 deaths, costing the NHS £5.2billion. It is most likely that, in the next 20 years, 207,597 more people than usual will be hospitalised, and 7,153 will die, costing £1.1billion.

The team said ‘heavier drinkers and those in the most deprived areas’, who already suffer the most harm related to alcohol, would be the hardest hit.

In their study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, scientists examined genetic and health data from 245,000 Britons who participated in the UK Biobank.

Participants were slit roughly split evenly by gender and had an average age of 57. Most were current drinkers, with only 3 per cent never drinking alcohol. 

Scientists looked for telltale genetic markers in the participants that had previously been associated with alcohol consumption and alcohol disorders.

Analysing the data, the researchers found a significant association between high alcohol intake and shorter telomere length.

For example, those who drank 29 units of alcohol a week, about 10 large glasses of wine were one to two years older in terms of telomere length than those who drank less than six units per week, about two large glasses of wine.  

Participants who had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, and therefore likely to have been heavy drinkers, were found to significantly shorter telomeres than controls, equivalent to between three to six years of biological aging.

However, the researchers found the association between telomere shortening and alcohol intake only kicked in for people who drank more than 17 units per week, equivalent to just over five glasses of wine. 

This suggests those who drink under this amount would not be at risk of drink related telomere shortening.  

Lead author, Dr Anya Topiwala, an expert in psychiatry, said the results suggested alcohol, particularly at excessive levels, shortened telomeres.   

‘Our results provide another piece of information for clinicians and patients seeking to reduce the harmful effects of excess alcohol,’ she said. 

‘Furthermore, the dose of alcohol is important – even reducing drinking could have benefits.’

How exactly drinking could shortens telomeres is unknown, but the researchers suggest it could be related to increased oxidative stress and inflammation that can damage DNA as the body processes alcohol.

Responding to the study, Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of charity Alcohol Change UK welcomed the findings.  

‘This particular study shows clear links between consuming alcohol and ageing, and points towards a possible link between alcohol and Alzheimer’s,’ he said. 

‘The researchers are transparent that this study does not prove a causal link, but they also make a well-argued case about the likely biological mechanism.’

‘In general, there is an ever-larger body of science showing how, exactly, alcohol causes so much ill-health and so many early deaths.’ 

The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 14 units each week — that's 14 single shots of spirit or six pints of beer or a bottle and a half of wine

The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 14 units each week — that’s 14 single shots of spirit or six pints of beer or a bottle and a half of wine

NHS recommendations state adults shouldn’t drink more than 14 units each week — that’s 14 single shots of spirit or six pints of beer or a bottle and a half of wine.

They should also spread their drinking over three or more days to avoid binge drinking. 

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years is already linked to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke risk, and range of cancers. 

Alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost the NHS £3.5billion per year in England alone, and nearly 9,000 booze-related deaths were logged in the UK in 2020.

However, a study commissioned by NHS England from the University of Sheffield published today suggests drinking habits picked up during the pandemic could lead to more than 25,000 deaths and cost the NHS £5.2billion.

Experts found that over the pandemic, heavy drinkers drank more – and may never return to their previous levels. 

Researchers said that in the best-case scenario – where all drinkers return to their 2019 levels of drinking this year – there would still be an extra 42,677 hospital admissions and 1,830 deaths over 20 years due to alcohol.

In the worst-case scenario, this rose to 972,382 extra admissions and 25,192 deaths, costing the NHS £5.2billion. It is most likely that, in the next 20 years, 207,597 more people than usual will be hospitalised, and 7,153 will die, costing £1.1billion.

The team said ‘heavier drinkers and those in the most deprived areas’, who already suffer the most harm related to alcohol, would be the hardest hit.

‘My dark circles disappeared’: Former wine addict, 57, reveals how giving up alcohol has shed YEARS from her appearance 

A former ‘wine addict’ has revealed how giving up her nightly glasses of chardonnay for 12 months has drastically transformed her appearance and health.

Lyn Battle from Sweers Island off the north coast of Queensland, said her casual drinking had slowly worn away at her wellbeing before she decided to take action.

The Irish-born woman said she only began drinking regularly when she moved to Australia in 1986 at age 23.

Lyn Battle (pictured a year ago) said her casual drinking had slowly worn away at her well being before she decided to take action

Mrs Battle said she has been told she looks 10 years younger by her friends and family after ditching booze (pictured now)

Lyn Battle (pictured left a year ago and right now) said her casual drinking had slowly worn away at her wellbeing before she decided to take action and has now been told she looks 10 years younger 

 

The now 57-year-old revealed that her alcohol consumption intensified once she hit her mid-40s – snowballing from an occasional drink to three or four glasses of white wine every night.

And while Mrs Battle said her drink count might not be reflective of a ‘typical alcoholic’, she said it eventually began ageing her far beyond her years.

But now the resort owner has turned back the clock after ditching booze over a year ago – and has since been inundated with comments from people saying she looks ten years younger.

‘I didn’t drink much at all when I was younger. My first beer was at 17, and the first time I got drunk was on holiday in Spain at 19,’ Mrs Battle said.

Mrs Battle said her drinking escalated considerably in the last five years to three or four glasses every night and it has having a huge impact on her life and health (pictured after being alcohol-free for seven months)

Mrs Battle said her drinking escalated considerably in the last five years to three or four glasses every night and it has having a huge impact on her life and health (pictured after being alcohol-free for seven months)

‘Wine was not something that we’d often have back in Ireland. But when I came to Australia, it was far more common.

‘People would bring it to BBQs, they’d have a cask of wine. That was really new for me.

Mrs Battle said her drinking escalated considerably in the past five years to three or four glasses every night. 

‘Many women would perceive this as a normal amount, but this number of drinks was having a negative effect on me.

‘I realised I had a problem when my regular favourite chardonnay wasn’t available, and I just started drinking another one that I didn’t like.

‘It was then I realised I was no longer drinking because I enjoyed the taste. I was drinking just to get tipsy, no matter how bad it tasted to me.’

Not only was her wine addiction causing her to experience weight gain, hair breakage, night sweats and elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels – but the alcohol was starting to create tension in her 30-year marriage to husband Tex, 77.

Mrs Battle said her drinking escalated considerably in the past five years to three or four glasses every night

Mrs Battle said her drinking escalated considerably in the past five years to three or four glasses every night

The former wine addict said her husband Tex, 77, (left) warned her years ago her habit was a slippery slope which resulted in arguments between the couple

The former wine addict said her husband Tex, 77, (left) warned her years ago her habit was a slippery slope which resulted in arguments between the couple

But since starting the ‘One Year No Beer’ (OYNB) challenge in July 2018, the former wine addict hasn’t looked back – and her appearance, health and relationships with friends and family have never been better.

Mrs Battle said she never imagined the harsh toll alcohol could have on her appearance – but now looks and feels ten years younger since going sober.

She said: ‘I really feel that I’ve turned the clock back ten years simply by giving up my wine habit.

‘I remember a few weeks into my OYNB Challenge, I was washing my face at night and it just felt softer, smoother, plumper.

‘I’d started to notice red blotchy patches on my face. But after a month or so of no wine, the blotchiness disappeared. The dark circles round my eyes disappeared.

‘Since giving up wine, my weight reduced by 6 kg and I’ve shaved 5cm off my bust, waist and hips.

Despite the challenge only lasting for a year Mrs Battle said she won't turn back to her former lifestyle (pictured now)

Despite the challenge only lasting for a year Mrs Battle said she won’t turn back to her former lifestyle (pictured now)

‘It might not sound like much, but I’ve dropped two dress sizes and am back wearing clothes I have not fitted properly for years.

The former wine addict said her husband warned her years ago her habit was a slippery slope and it could take a toll on her health.  

‘We often ended up having an argument, because of my drinking. We haven’t had a row since I stopped.’

‘I feel, and have been told I look, ten years younger from friends and family. I owe it all to giving up the booze.’

While some might feel ‘left out’ of social situations where other people are drinking, Mrs Battle said she can still enjoy these events, but chooses to sip on alcohol-free wine and beer instead.

Mrs Battle is pictured at the start of her challenge

She is pictured here a year after no alcohol

Mrs Battle is pictured left at the start of her challenge and right, a year later 

Incredibly, Mrs Battle even celebrated sobriety by being the first female in history to circumnavigate the perimeter of the island where she lives back in September 2018 – something she said she could never have done before ditching booze.

Her sea kayak – which she cleverly named ‘Chardo-NAY’ – saw her paddle around the entire 30km of Sweers Island in six-and-a-half hours.

She is now looking forward to a brighter future free of alcohol – and even plans to outdo her kayaking record sometime over the next year.

‘Kayaking around my island was an incredible experience. When you start OYNB, they ask you to do a physical challenge, something that you wouldn’t be able to do before,’ she said.

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