Alcohol DOUBLES LIFESPAN, helps resist stress

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Alcohol DOUBLES LIFESPAN, helps resist stress

We're filing this from the pub, naturally
By Anna Leach • Get more from this author
Posted in Biology, 20th January 2012 17:53 GMT

Pour yourself another one, quickly, as scientists have proven that
alcohol can double life-span.

Moderate levels of alcohol delivered an increase in longevity among
test subjects in a recent study that Steven Clarke, UCLA professor of
chemistry and biochemistry and senior author on a study published
yesterday in the journal PLoS One, described as "shocking".

"This finding floored us" he told the UCLA newsletter.
The booze boost was particularly strong for test subjects put under
stressful conditions, with the scientists noting that the addition of
small amounts of pure alcohol produced significantly more robust
looking subjects, compared to a control "teetotal" group.

The test subjects in this case were worms, though the scientists, and
indeed the Register editorial team believe the research is highly
likely to be applicable to humans.

The C elegans worms tested are often used as a model in experiments
into human ageing, and indeed we share half of our genes with the
soft-bodied mud-munchers.

The discovery came about accidentally in an experiment that was
originally intended to test reactions to cholesterol. Tiny amounts of
ethanol were used to dissolve the cholesterol in the liquid
surrounding the worms. The scientists were stunned to see that it
doubled the lifespan of worm larvae from an average of 10-15 days to

Further tests found that it was the alcohol that turned out to give
the magic life-boost rather than cholesterol.

Stressed worms benefited particularly strongly from the drink:

What is even more interesting is the fact that the worms are in a
stressed developmental stage. At high magnifications under the
microscope, it was amazing to see how the worms given a little ethanol
looked significantly more robust than worms not given ethanol.
Researcher Shilpi Khare suggested that the benefits could come from
the biochemical reactions that the alcohol unleashed:

We show that very low doses of ethanol can be a worm 'lifesaver' under
starvation stress conditions," Khare added. "While the mechanism of
action is still not clearly understood, our evidence indicates that
these 1 millimeter–long roundworms could be utilizing ethanol directly
as a precursor for biosynthesis of high-energy metabolic intermediates
or indirectly as a signal to extend life span. These findings could
potentially aid researchers in determining how human physiology is
altered to induce cardio-protective and other beneficial effects in
response to low alcohol consumption.
However, even for worms, binge drinking is not encouraged - if the
worms are given much higher concentrations of ethanol, they experience
harmful neurological effects and die, the scientists note.

The ideal, life-extending brew doesn't sound like the most appetizing
cocktail: "The concentrations correspond to a tablespoon of ethanol in
a bathtub full of water or the alcohol in one beer diluted into a
hundred gallons of water," Clarke said.

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