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Alcohol DOUBLES LIFESPAN, helps resist stress

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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 20-30.

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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