Jan 5, 2014

A is for Alcohol

Now that the holidays festivities have subsided, I offer a bit of solace to the imbibers in the crowd. A recent study from the Research Society on Alcoholism shows that regular drinkers are less likely to die prematurely than people who have never indulged in alcohol. It concludes that abstaining from alcohol altogether can lead to a shorter life than consistent, moderate drinking.

The controlled study followed 1,824 individuals between ages 55 and 65 over a 20-year period and accounted for variables including socioeconomic status to level of physical activity. It found that mortality rates were highest for those who had never had a sip, lower for heavy drinkers, and lowest for moderate drinkers who enjoyed one to three drinks per day.

Results showed 69 percent of nondrinkers and 60 percent of heavy drinkers died prematurely, while only 41 percent of the moderate drinkers died prematurely. Even with the other heavy drinking mortality factors, such as risks for cirrhosis and cancer, accidents, and poor judgment associated with heavy drinking; those who imbibe are less likely to die prematurely than nondrinkers.

A possible explanation offered is that alcohol can be a social lubricant and strong social networks are essential for maintaining mental and physical health. Also, nondrinkers demonstrate greater signs of depression than drinkers. Another recent study found that moderate alcohol consumption boosts your immune system. In addition, there is potential heart health and circulation benefits of moderate drinking, especially red wine.

The difference between moderate and chronic is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They define moderate as no more than four drinks on a single day and no more than 14 in a week for men. For women, it is defined as no more than three drinks on a single day and no more than seven in a week.