European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 27, Issue 10, pp 815–822 | Cite as

Association between alcohol consumption in healthy midlife and telomere length in older men. The Helsinki Businessmen Study

  • Timo E. Strandberg
  • Arto Y. Strandberg
  • Outi Saijonmaa
  • Reijo S. Tilvis
  • Kaisu H. Pitkälä
  • Frej Fyhrquist


There are scarce data of alcohol consumption and telomere length, an indicator of biological age. In 1974, detailed alcohol consumption was available for a socioeconomically homogenous cohort of middle-aged men (The Helsinki Businessmen Study). Their alcohol use, divided into 5 groups (zero, 1–98, 99–196, 197–490, >490 g/week) has been repeatedly assessed until old age. In 2002/2003, leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and the proportion of short telomeres (less than 5 kilobases) were measured in a random subcohort of 499 men (mean age 76 years) using the Southern blot. Age-adjusted mean LTL in the 5 midlife alcohol consumption groups were 8.33, 8.24, 8.12, 8.13, and 7.87 kilobases, respectively (P < 0.001). The respective proportions (%) for short telomeres were 11.24, 11.52, 11.89, 12.08, and 13.47 (P = 0.004). The differences remained after further adjustments (ever smoking, body mass index, cholesterol, perceived fitness) for LTL (P = 0.03) and tended to remain for proportion of short telomeres (P = 0.07). Neither LTL, nor proportion of short telomeres, were associated with contemporary alcohol consumption groups in old age. Even minor alcohol consumption in midlife was significantly associated with shorter telomere length in old age. The differences represent an up to 10 year gap in biological age between zero and highest consumption.


Aged Alcohol Midlife Telomere 



TES, FF, OS and RST designed the study and drafted the manuscript. TES directed the implementation of the study, including quality assurance and control. AYS and KHP helped in analytic strategy and reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final version, and have participated sufficiently in the work to believe its overall validity and take public responsibility. Professor Tatu A Miettinen contributed to the design and initial preparation of this paper. He died accidentally in November 2011. The data were analyzed solely by the authors, but we wish to thank Hannu Kautiainen, M.Sc. for advice in statistical issues, and Emilie Kvist. M.Sc. for telomere measurements. This work was supported by the Jahnsson Foundation, the University Central Hospitals of Oulu and Helsinki [EVO funding], the Konung Gustaf V:s och Drottning Victorias Frimurarestiftelse, and the Wilhelm and Else Stockmann Foundation. The funding sources had no role in the design and conduct of the study; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timo E. Strandberg
    • 1
    • 3
  • Arto Y. Strandberg
    • 3
  • Outi Saijonmaa
    • 2
  • Reijo S. Tilvis
    • 3
  • Kaisu H. Pitkälä
    • 4
  • Frej Fyhrquist
    • 2
  1. 1.Unit of General Practice, Institute of Health Sciences/GeriatricsUniversity of Oulu (Oulun Yliopisto) and University HospitalOuluFinland
  2. 2.Minerva Institute for Medical Research and University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Medicine, Geriatric ClinicUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Unit of General PracticeHelsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland

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