Research Paper Volume 15, Issue 2 pp 371—395

Alcohol consumption and epigenetic age acceleration in young adults

Drew R. Nannini1, , Brian T. Joyce1, , Yinan Zheng1, , Tao Gao1, , Jun Wang1, , Lei Liu2, , David R. Jacobs Jr3, , Pamela J. Schreiner3, , Chunyu Liu4, , Qi Dai5, , Steve Horvath6,7, , Ake T. Lu6, , Kristine Yaffe8, , Philip Greenland1,9, , Donald M. Lloyd-Jones1,9, , Lifang Hou1, ,

  • 1 Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
  • 2 Division of Biostatistics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA
  • 3 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
  • 4 Department of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02118, USA
  • 5 Department of Medicine, Division of Epidemiology, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232, USA
  • 6 Department of Human Genetics, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
  • 7 Department of Biostatistics, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
  • 8 University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA
  • 9 Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

Received: June 27, 2022       Accepted: December 16, 2022       Published: January 5, 2023
How to Cite

Copyright: © 2022 Nannini et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Alcohol is a widely consumed substance in the United States, however its effect on aging remains understudied. In this study of young adults, we examined whether cumulative alcohol consumption, i.e., alcohol years of beer, liquor, wine, and total alcohol, and recent binge drinking, were associated with four measures of age-related epigenetic changes via blood DNA methylation. A random subset of study participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study underwent DNA methylation profiling using the Illumina MethylationEPIC Beadchip. Participants with alcohol consumption and methylation data at examination years 15 (n = 1,030) and 20 (n = 945) were included. Liquor and total alcohol consumption were associated with a 0.31-year (P = 0.002) and a 0.12-year (P = 0.013) greater GrimAge acceleration (GAA) per additional five alcohol years, while beer and wine consumption observed marginal (P = 0.075) and no associations (P = 0.359) with GAA, respectively. Any recent binge drinking and the number of days of binge drinking were associated with a 1.38-year (P < 0.001) and a 0.15-year (P < 0.001) higher GAA, respectively. We observed statistical interactions between cumulative beer (P < 0.001) and total alcohol (P = 0.004) consumption with chronological age, with younger participants exhibiting a higher average in GAA compared to older participants. No associations were observed with the other measures of epigenetic aging. These results suggest cumulative liquor and total alcohol consumption and recent binge drinking may alter age-related epigenetic changes as captured by GAA. With the increasing aging population and widespread consumption of alcohol, these findings may have potential implications for lifestyle modification to promote healthy aging.


BMI: body mass index; CARDIA: Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults; EAA: epigenetic age acceleration; EEAA: extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration; GAA: GrimAge acceleration; IEAA: intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration; PAA: PhenoAge acceleration.