HomeHealthHeavy drinkers risk loss of muscle mass

Heavy drinkers risk loss of muscle mass

If you want to protect your muscles and avoid frailty later in life, research says the best thing you can do is ease up on your drinking.

The harms of excessive drinking are well known – hypertension, liver disease and cardiovascular problems among them – but now you can add muscle wastage and future frailty to that list.

A University of East Anglia (UEA) study of health data, from more than 200,000 people aged 37 to 73, has demonstrated that the people with the lowest recorded amounts of muscle were those drinking more than 10 units of alcohol (one unit of alcohol is equivalent to one Australian standard drink) per day.

Professor Ailsa Welch, lead author of the study, says the findings give people in their 50s and 60s even more reason to cut back on the booze.

“Losing muscle as we age leads to problems with weakness and frailty in later life,” she says.

“Alcohol intake is a major modifiable risk factor for many diseases, so we wanted to find out more about the relationship between drinking and muscle health as we age.”

The researchers studied how much alcohol people were drinking and compared it with how much muscle they had, adjusted to account for their body size.  

They also looked at how much protein they consumed, their levels of physical activity and other factors that could make a difference to how much muscle they might have.

Although the youngest person examined was just 37, most people were in their 50s and 60s.

The researchers say that loss of muscle mass really became a problem when people were drinking 10 or more units a day – which is the equivalent of about a bottle of wine or four or five pints.

However, they also note alcohol consumption and muscle mass were measured cross-sectionally (measured at the same time), so it can’t be 100 per cent confirmed that there is a causal link between the two.

Lower levels of muscle mass can lead to becoming frail in older age. Frailty is a condition characterised by a decline of physical and cognitive reserves that leads to increased vulnerability.

Your likelihood of frailty increases with age and is associated with falls, longer stays in hospital, difficulty recovering from illness and surgery, and mortality.

“This study shows that alcohol may have harmful effects on muscle mass at higher levels of consumption,” Prof. Welch adds.

“We know that losing muscle as we age leads to problems with weakness and frailty, so this suggests another reason to avoid drinking high amounts of alcohol routinely in middle and early older age.”

How much do you drink each day? Have you noticed any loss of muscle mass? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Does drinking alcohol make snoring worse?

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


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