Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to various health problems such as liver cirrhosis, cancer, and heart disease. However, a recent study utilizing data from the UK Biobank, which includes information from approximately 200,000 individuals aged 37 to 73, has discovered an additional issue related to heavy drinking. The study revealed that heavy drinkers tend to have lower muscle mass compared to those who do not drink or drink moderately.
Drinking high quantities of alcohol associated to low muscle mass
To account for differences in body composition between men and women, the review examined them separately. Additionally, the study only included white participants due to limited data from other ethnic groups, which wasn’t sufficient for separate analysis.
Researchers employed a statistical model to demonstrate the relationship between muscle mass and alcohol consumption, taking into consideration variations in body size. Muscle measurements were adjusted based on individuals’ body size, as larger individuals tend to have more muscle.
Drinking alcohol in higher quantities was found to be associated with lower muscle mass. For men, this effect occurred after consuming approximately one unit of alcohol per day, while for women, it occurred after consuming just under two units. The individuals who consumed the most alcohol, approximately 20 units per day (equivalent to two bottles of wine or ten pints of beer), had 4%-5% less muscle compared to non-drinkers. This decrease in muscle mass is significant when considering the average yearly loss of muscle, which is around 0.5%. These findings have potential implications for our health as we grow older.
No direc5t link between alcohol consumption and muscle loss
The study did not find a direct link between alcohol consumption and muscle loss. The researchers measured both alcohol consumption and muscle mass simultaneously, and also observed changes in muscle mass over time in relation to alcohol consumption.
Notably this review aimed to determine if the observed relationship between the variables was causal. However, the problem could be serious in individuals above 70 years since alcohol can interact with body composition or lead to inflammation resulting in greater muscle loss.