According a new study of over 3,000 adults aged 70-79, the apparent association between light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of functional decline over time did not hold up after adjustments were made for characteristics related to lifestyle, in particular physical activity, body weight, education, and income.
The authors of the study, publishing today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, say this suggests that life-style related characteristics may be the real determinant of the reported beneficial effects of alcohol and functional decline.
“In recent years the relationship between alcohol intake and health outcomes has gained growing attention, but while there is now considerable consensus that consuming alcohol at moderate levels has a specific beneficial effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease, the benefit of alcohol intake on other health-related outcomes is less convincing,” said study author Cinzia Maraldi, M.D., of the University of Ferrara, Italy. “We wanted to evaluate this question over a long-term follow-up and with a prospective design, which most previous studies have not used.”
During a follow-up time of six and a half years, the researchers found that participants consuming moderate levels of alcohol had the lowest incidence of mobility limitation and disability. After adjusting for demographic characteristics, moderate alcohol intake was still associated with reduced risk compared to never or occasional consumption, but adjusting for life-style related variables substantially reduced the strength of the associations. Adjustment for diseases and health status indicators did not affect the strength of the associations, which led the authors to conclude that life-style is the most important factor in confounding this relationship.
I suspect that some people derive a net benefit from alcohol while obviously many others experience a net harm from drinking it. Similarly, when it comes to lots of different drugs and dietary practices I expect the evidence will eventually show that the trade-offs between costs and benefits will end up having a large variable genetic component. For example, we differ in liver metabolism that some people will process and excrete a given drug really fast and others much more slowly. Also, how well drugs bind to active sites differs between people.
The cost of genetic testing and genetic sequencing has fallen so far so fast that we are now at the point where the floodgates are just starting to open for a torrent of research results identifying functionally significant genetic differences and how they matter for food and drug metabolism. Some of us are probably going to learn that we should drink a glass of red wine or beer every day. Others will learn they should rarely if ever touch the stuff. Ditto for various diets and drugs. Should you eat saturated fats daily? Or eat lots of statins? We'll probably know in 5-10 years.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2009 October 14 11:05 PM Aging Diet Studies|