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Alcohol consumption and telomere length: observational and Mendelian randomization approaches

By Anya Topiwala, Bernd Taschler, Klaus P. Ebmeier, Steve Smith, Hang Zhou, Daniel F Levey, Veryan Codd, Nilesh Samani, Joel Gelernter, Thomas E Nichols, Stephen Burgess

Posted 21 Sep 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.17.21263720

Alcohols impact on telomere length, a proposed marker of biological age, is unclear. We performed the largest observational study to date and compared findings with Mendelian randomization (MR) estimates. Two-sample MR used data from a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) of telomere length. Genetic variants were selected on the basis of associations with alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Non-linear MR employed UK Biobank individual data. MR analyses suggest a causal relationship between alcohol and telomere length: both genetically predicted alcohol traits were inversely associated with telomere length. 1 S.D. higher genetically-predicted log-transformed alcoholic drinks weekly had a -0.07 S.D. effect on telomere length (95% confidence interval [CI]:-0.14 to -0.01); genetically-predicted AUD -0.06 S.D. effect (CI:-0.10 to -0.02). Results were consistent across methods and independent from smoking. Non-linear analyses indicated a potential threshold relationship between alcohol and telomere length. Our findings have implications for potential aging-related disease prevention strategies.

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