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Healthy Living >>> Anti-Aging Articles & News



Does Thirsting for Beer Mean You'll Live Longer?



By: Gabe Romain - Betterhumans Staff

Rats bred to prefer alcohol live longer than rats bred to avoid it, suggesting that the biological traits for alcoholism may confer longevity if they don't result in risky and unhealthy behavior.

The finding, by researchers from Finland's National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, came from a study to examine the effects of long-term, chronic alcohol consumption on survival.

In human studies, self-reported alcohol intake and environmental factors can complicate data about the health effects of chronic drinking.

"It is very difficult in human studies to separate the chronic effects of alcohol itself from the effects of factors that may accompany drinking," says researcher David Sinclair.

First, says Sinclair, alcoholism-related factors—everything from smoking to stress, nutritional problems to marital problems—can produce their own effects.

"Second," he says, "it is almost impossible in human studies to separate the effects of alcohol from the effects of those things that caused the drinking, including the genetic influences on alcohol consumption."



Genetic Predisposition
Rodents bred for a specific alcohol response in a controlled laboratory study allowed Sinclair and colleagues to cut through many of these complicating factors.

The researchers examined two groups of rats: One group genetically engineered to prefer alcohol, labeled "AA," and one engineered to avoid it, labeled "ANA."

Some of the rats received 12% alcohol as their sole source of fluid from three to 24 months of age and others received water as their sole source of fluid.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that a lifetime of forced alcohol consumption did not shorten the lives of either group.

They also found that AA rats were healthier and lived much longer than ANA rats regardless of whether they drank alcohol or not.



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Paradox Explained?
The results don't suggest that alcohol consumption is harmless, the researchers say, as rats can clear alcohol from their system far more effectively than humans.

But the findings do hint at an explanation for the paradox of alcoholism's existence.

"It is now clear that there are rather widespread genes in the human population that increase the risk of developing alcoholism, and there are others—such as the one causing some Orientals to flush when they drink—that provide protection from alcoholism," says Sinclair.

"It seems very likely that developing alcoholism is a very detrimental trait from an evolutionary point of view," he continues. "Children born to parents who are alcoholics should have been less likely to survive and reproduce. Tribes in which many of the elders have developed alcoholism should have been less adept at raising children who survive and reproduce. If this is true, why hasn't evolution removed those genes promoting the risk of alcohol and, conversely, why haven't the 'flusher' genes become universal in Oriental populations?"

The discovery that "alcoholic" rats live longer suggests that genes predisposing people to alcoholism somehow confer benefits as well, which may be why they haven't been eliminated from the gene pool.

"These are extremely important questions that merit further investigation," says Sinclair.

The research is reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.




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