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Alcohol and Longevity

The Benefits of Light Consumption

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Updated December 28, 2012

When it comes to alcoholic drinks and longevity, red wine certainly gets all the great press, thanks mostly to its high concentration of healthy polyphenols (including resveratrol). But how healthy are other alcoholic drinks, including white wine, hard liquor, and beer?

There is much scientific evidence that so-called "light-to-moderate" consumption -- that is, 1 alcoholic beverage (of any kind) per day for women, 1-2 for men -- is associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. The research doesn't prove that the alcohol is responsible for the lower mortality from cardiac events, just that the pattern of consumption and lower incidence of heart attacks appear to be linked.

While most of the research has been conducted on men, there is data from a large study on middle-aged women that reinforces these conclusions about the benefits of light-to-moderate consumption.

A warning: though there appear to be benefits of regularly consuming small amounts of any alcoholic beverages, the health and mortality risks rapidly accumulate with greater consumption. Diseases like heart disease and cancer, as well as a greater chance of fatal accidents, increase with more alcohol intake.

Alcohol of any kind remains a highly addictive substance for a portion of the population. If you don't currently drink, no health advocates recommend that you start, to improve your health. If, however, you enjoy a small glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage - rest assured that it may improve your heart health, and longevity in general.

Sources:

Charles J. Holahan et al. Wine Consumption and 20-Year Mortality Among Late-Life Moderate Drinkers. J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 80-88, 2012.

Jürgen Rehm, Ph.D., Gerhard Gmel, Ph.D., Christopher T. Sempos, Ph.D., and Maurizio Trevisan, M.D., M.S. "Alcohol-Related Morbidity and Mortality." NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism."
http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-1/39-51.htm

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