Ann Conkle
Jan 20, 2012

Alcohol dramatically extend a worm's life, but why?

Minuscule amounts of ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, can more than double the life span of the tiny worm Caenorhabditiselegans, which is used frequently in aging studies, UCLA biochemists report. The scientists said they find their discovery difficult to explain. "This finding floored us — it's shocking," said Steven Clarke, senior author of the study. In humans, alcohol consumption is generally harmful and if worms are given much higher concentrations of ethanol, they experience harmful neurological effects and die. "The concentrations correspond to a tablespoon of ethanol in a bathtub full of water," Clarke said. The research raises, but does not answer, the question of whether tiny amounts of ethanol can be helpful for human health. Whether this mechanism has something in common with findings that moderate alcohol consumption in humans may have a cardiovascular health benefit is unknown, but Clarke said the possibilities are intriguing.