Posted On Saturday, December 07, 2013 at 08:28:17 AM
Jerusalem: Your choice of coffee or beer can not only affect your mood, but also influence a part of DNA linked to ageing and cancer, a new study claims.
Working with a kind of yeast that shares many genetic similarities with humans, the researchers from the Tel Aviv University found that caffeine shortens and alcohol lengthens telomeres – the end points of chromosomal DNA, implicated in ageing and cancer.
“For the first time we’ve identified a few environmental factors that alter telomere length, and we’ve shown how they do it,” said Professor Martin Kupiec.
Telomeres, made of DNA and proteins, mark the ends of the strands of DNA in our chromosomes and are essential to ensuring that DNA strands are repaired and copied correctly.
Every time a cell duplicates, the chromosomes are copied into the new cell with slightly shorter telomeres. Eventually, the telomeres become too short, and the cell dies. Only foetal and cancer cells can avoid this fate.
They grew yeast cells in conditions that generate free radicals to test the effect on telomere length and were surprised to find it did not change. They went on to expose the yeast cells to 12 other environmental stressors.
Most of the stressors – from temperature and pH changes to various drugs and chemicals – had no effect on the length.
But a low concentration of caffeine, similar to the amount found in a shot of espresso, shortened telomeres, and exposure to a 5-to-7 per cent alcohol solution lengthened telomeres.