ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 28 -- Drinking a little alcohol every day, especially wine, may be associated with an increase in life expectancy. Thatís the conclusion of Dutch researchers who reported the findings of their study today at the American Heart Associationís 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
The researchers found that a light intake of alcohol (on average less than one glass per day) was associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular death and death from all causes. When compared to spirits and beer, consumption of small amounts of wine, about a half a glass a day, was associated with the lowest levels of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths.
"Our study showed that long-term, light alcohol intake among middle-aged men was associated not only with lower cardiovascular and all-cause death risk, but also with longer life expectancy at age 50," said Martinette T. Streppel, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student in the Division of Human Nutrition at Wageningen University and National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven, The Netherlands. "Furthermore, long-term light wine consumption is associated with a further protective effect when compared to that of light-to-moderate alcohol intake of other types."
Drink, be merry, live longer.
The researchers found that long-term, light alcohol intake of less than or equal to 20 grams per day (1 glass of alcoholic beverage contains 10 grams of alcohol, 1 ounce = ~30 mL of alcoholic beverage) compared to no alcohol intake was associated with a 36 percent lower relative risk of all-cause death and a 34 lower relative risk of cardiovascular death. The average long-term daily intake of the men throughout the 40-year study was six grams based on any alcohol intake of more than zero and up to 20 grams. The long-term average intake of six grams of alcohol is equal to one four-ounce beer, one two-ounce glass of wine or one one-ounce glass of spirits, daily.
When the researchers looked independently at wine consumption, the associated risk reduction was greater. Participants who drank on average half a glass, or 1.5 ounces, of wine per day, over a long period, had a 40 percent lower rate of all-cause death and a 48 percent lower incidence of cardiovascular death, compared to the non-wine drinkers.
Researchers said life expectancy was 3.8 years higher in those men who drank wine compared to those who did not drink alcoholic beverages. Life expectancy of wine users was more than two years longer than users of other alcoholic beverages. Men with a long-term alcohol intake less than or equal to 20 grams per day had a 1.6-year-higher life expectancy, compared to those who consumed no alcohol.
The big question: Why? If wine is more beneficial than other alcoholic beverages then at least part of the benefit comes from something other than alcohol. If so then we can get some of the same benefits by eating foods that contain those compounds. Most obviously, grape juice and grapes. But assorted berries and chocolate contain compounds that are also found in red and white wines. Though resveratrol is found in few other foods besides red wine.
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