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Moderate drinking and longevity

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:14pm

I have earlier described evidence from a large British study that identified a positive impact of the moderate consumption of alcohol on longevity — in their case, apparently adding about 1.5 years to a lifespan.

Now, from my own university comes another large, careful study that supports this conclusion, while doing a little better job of eliminating other possible factors that might account for this longevity benefit. For example, moderate drinkers in the U.S. are a little better off financially on the statistical average, and have other lifestyle benefits that stem from their advantaged position. In the UCSF study led by Dr. Sei J. Lee published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 12,519 individuals over 55 years of age were tracked over a 4 year period. At the end of that period, 50% fewer moderate drinkers (equivalent to 1-2 glasses of wine/day) had died than did those who either drank less, or more. When other factors that could also impact mortality (for example, related to physical or mental health, or being financially better off) were ruled out, still 25% fewer moderate drinkers had kicked the bucket than had either teetotalers or heavier embibers. By any measure, this is a pretty big effect that is making your faithful scribe just a little bit thirsty!

The authors noted that the occasional drink (for example, one or two glasses of wine or beer/week) had no such benefit.

I’m certain that you understand that excessive drinking in the elderly can also grow to be a problem, even in an individual who has been able to control their consumption throughout their earlier life. MODERATION is the key.

Finally, it should be noted that physical longevity does not equate with mental longevity! It is now time for a definitive study determining whether or not that extra year or two or three are or are not also mentally vigorous.

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