In doctors’ health advice, they often go back and forth on what to say about alcohol. Drinking in moderation has long been a subject of medical studies, as there are many health benefits associated with responsible drinking. But alcohol, which has toxic elements, is considered unhealthy by many as well — generally when used more often than “in moderation.” A new study weighs in on this issue with an interesting finding about how alcohol could lead to “successful aging.”
The information is gleaned from the long-standing Nurses’ Health Study. Among 13,894 women, investigators examined alcohol use assessed at midlife in relation to “successful aging.” This is defined as surviving to be 70 years old, not having a major chronic disease (such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes), and having no major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health problems.
Only 11% of the women met these criteria — a testament to how difficult it is to achieve successful aging.
The results indicate that moderate drinkers were more likely to exhibit successful aging. This was particularly true for those who drank wine regularly (in moderation). This is not surprising, as red wine is considered the healthiest alcoholic choice, as it is filled with heart-healthy natural compounds.
In the study, for average amount consumed, the largest benefit (an increase of 28%) was found among women who reported 15 to 30 grams of alcohol intake per day compared to non-drinkers. That range of alcohol is equivalent to just over one to two-and-a-half drinks per day. The frequency of drinking was especially important: in comparison with non-drinkers, women who drank one to two days per week had little increase in their risk of successful ageing, but those drinking at least five days per week had almost a 50% greater chance of successful aging.
That is some pretty big information and flies in the face of studies that find alcohol to be more damaging than healthful. Regardless, these results support the findings of many other studies that show that many aspects of successful ageing, in addition to just survival, are favorably affected by regular, moderate consumption of alcohol.