Coffee Vs. Beer: Which Helps You Live Longer?

Think twice about what you drink—it may affect your genes. A new study in the journal PLoS Genetics found that alcohol may exert a beneficial effect on DNA, while caffeine may harm DNA.

What’s behind the study? It’s all about telomeres, the end caps on DNA, which provide a clue into what researchers call your "biological age." Shorter telomeres are correlated with aging and disease. That’s why scientists are working to discover what lifestyle or environmental factors, like stress, affect these bits of DNA. In the lab, scientists found that caffeine exposure shortened telomeres and alcohol elongated them.


Before you go changing your habits, know that researchers used yeast cells in the study. Why? You can’t exactly take people and expose them to extreme stress or copious amounts of booze for several years to see what happens to their telomeres. Yeast cells you can. That means it’s still too early to say how these results may apply to humans, says study coauthor Martin Kupiec, PhD, of Tel Aviv University.

So, says Dr. Kupiec, there’s no reason to ditch your morning cup of coffee—or start drinking more alcohol. Research shows that both in moderation have their benefits:

Longer life: Compared to moderate drinkers, teetotalers have a more than two times increased mortality risk and heavy drinkers a 70 percent higher risk of death, according to a 2010 study. A moderate intake means women should stick to one drink per day, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Healthier weight: Normal weight women who drink a light or moderate amount of alcohol were 30% less likely to become overweight or obese over a 13-year period, per the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Stronger bones: Regularly having one or two drinks a day may help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women, by reducing bone turnover, according to research from Oregon State University.

Reduce diabetes risk: A meta-analysis found that for every additional cup of coffee consumed, diabetes odds decreased 7%. imilarly, three to four cups of tea a day lowered risk by 20% found another study analysis. Caffeine may be a factor, but other chemicals like chlorogenic acids (in coffee) and catechins (in tea) may improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

Healthier heart: Drinking four 4-ounce cups of coffee a day (the equivalent of two cups from popular coffee chains) lowered chance of heart failure by 11%, found a 2012 meta-analysis of five studies. Researchers aren’t sure why, but it may be because of coffee’s protection against diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart failure.


By Jessica Girdwain

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