Washington D.C.: As per a recent study, cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol use are associated with epigenetic signs of aging.
Smoking and heavy alcohol use cause epigenetic changes to DNA that reflect accelerated biological aging in distinct, measurable ways, according to research presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
Using data from the publicly available Gene Expression Omnibus, Robert A. Philibert, MD, PhD and colleagues at the University of Iowa and other institutions analyzed patterns of DNA methylation, a molecular modification to DNA that affects when and how strongly a gene is expressed.
They found that all levels of exposure to smoke were associated with significantly premature aging. Interestingly, moderate alcohol use - about one to two drinks per day - was correlated with the healthiest aging, while very low and high consumption were linked to accelerated aging.
"These new tools allow us to monitor smoking and alcohol use in an objective way, and to understand their effects quantitatively," Ms. Dogan said. "Furthermore, our methods could be used to analyze any set of 450 BeadChip data, which means that existing data can be used to identify new patterns and that all such results can be easily compared."
Being able to objectively identify future smokers and heavy alcohol users when they are young, before major health issues arise, can help providers and public health practitioners prevent future problems, improve quality of life, and reduce later medical costs, Philibert added.