New research from the University of East Anglia suggests heavy drinkers could face muscle loss and frailty in later life.
The study showed that individuals with the least muscle mass were those consuming 10 or more alcohol units daily, equivalent to roughly a bottle of wine.
The research considered body size, as larger individuals naturally have more muscle mass. Other influencing factors, like protein intake and physical activity levels, were also accounted for.
Why This Matters: The Consequences of Muscle Loss
Ailsa Welch, a professor from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, emphasized the importance of this finding. As we grow older, loss of muscle can cause weakness and frailty.
The connection between alcohol intake and muscle health is a significant area of study since alcohol consumption is a risk factor we can change to prevent many diseases.
The Method: Using the UK Biobank
The research team used data from the UK Biobank, a vast database containing anonymous lifestyle and health information of half a million people.
The researchers examined data from nearly 200,000 individuals aged between 37 and 73.
Findings and Interpretations: The Link Between Alcohol and Muscle Mass
Jane Skinner, another researcher from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, described the method and findings of the study.
The researchers compared alcohol intake and muscle mass relative to body size, accounting for other influential factors.
People in their 50s and 60s who consumed significant amounts of alcohol had less skeletal muscle compared to moderate drinkers, even after considering body size and other factors.
This problem was pronounced in those who consumed 10 or more alcohol units per day.
However, Skinner added a note of caution.
Since the study’s design was cross-sectional, meaning it captured data from individuals at one specific point in time, the researchers couldn’t definitively establish a cause-effect relationship between alcohol consumption and muscle mass.
Conclusion and Future Directions: Implications for Lifestyle Choices
Welch concluded that the study highlights the potential damaging effects of high alcohol consumption on muscle mass.
As muscle loss with age can result in frailty and weakness, this study provides another reason to moderate alcohol consumption, especially during middle and early older age.
The study titled “Alcohol consumption and measures of sarcopenic muscle risk: cross-sectional and prospective associations within the UK Biobank Study” is published in the journal Calcified Tissue International.
If you care about muscle health, please read studies about cause of weak muscles in older people, and Krill oil could improve muscle health in older people.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and results showing why beetroot juice can strongly boost muscle force in exercise.
The study was published in Calcified Tissue International.
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