August 30, 2010
Benefits From Moderate Alcohol?

One study finds longer life expectancies among moderate drinkers.

They found that moderate drinkers tended to live longer across a 20-year follow-up compared to heavy drinkers and teetotalers. Mortality risk was 42% higher for heavy drinkers and 49% higher for abstainers than moderate drinkers.

Another finds moderate wine consumption correlates with better brain performance.

A large prospective study of 5033 men and women in the Tromsų Study in northern Norway has reported that moderate wine consumption is independently associated with better performance on cognitive tests. The subjects (average age 58 and free of stroke) were followed over 7 years during which they were tested with a range of cognitive function tests. Among women, there was a lower risk of a poor testing score for those who consumed wine at least 4 or more times over two weeks in comparison with those who drink < 1 time during this period The expected associations between other risk factors for poor cognitive functioning were seen, i.e. lower testing scores among people who were older, less educated, smokers, and those with depression, diabetes, or hypertension.

It has long been known that "moderate people do moderate things." The authors state the same thing: "A positive effect of wine . . . could also be due to confounders such as socio-economic status and more favourable dietary and other lifestyle habits.

It could be that people who control their drinking also make other wise decisions on their health.

If alcohol really does deliver a health benefit then how? A few possibilities are mentioned.

Such effects could relate to the presence in wine of a number of polyphenols (antioxidants) and other micro elements that may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline with ageing. Mechanisms that have been suggested for alcohol itself being protective against cognitive decline include effects on atherosclerosis ( hardening of the arteries), coagulation ( thickening of the blood and clotting), and reducing inflammation ( of artery walls, improving blood flow).

My guess is that some subset benefits from alcohol while another subset is harmed. I'd like to see a prospective study where blood lipids, inflammation, stress hormones, and other indicators are looked at before and after starting moderate alcohol consumption. Perhaps some people experience a reduction in stress and inflammation as a result of consuming alcohol while others are harmed and still others already have low stress and low inflammation without using alcohol.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 30 10:39 PM  Aging Diet Studies


Comments
PacRim Jim said at August 31, 2010 12:01 AM:

Why must the difference between causality and association be explained for every news story?
Perhaps healthier people are more likely to enjoy wine.

Jake said at August 31, 2010 2:45 AM:

The reason that alcohol extends life is that it lowers blood sugar after a meal. More proof that insulin is an aging hormone. You can get the same results by eating a low carb diet. Combine the two for even a longer life.

Jim said at August 31, 2010 10:29 AM:

You can experience this first hand yourself by mixing a ounce of apple cider vinegar in a plastic bottle with a little honey and filled with water, and drinking it throughout the day.

You will lose several pounds after a couple of weeks (moderate weight loss).

Of course you might not like the taste, but if you try this you'll understand why wine helps after a meal. No real big secret here (lowers glucose levels and improves digestion).

So that said, something that lowers glucose levels and improves the digestion of foods also seems to improve waste processing on the body, which results in cutting some excess body weight, which would otherwise stick around... thus improving health.

Parker Bohn said at August 31, 2010 11:16 AM:

I wonder if they are measuring what they think they are measuring.

Perhaps people with leisure time and active social lives are both more likely to be healthy, and to enjoy a drink every now and then.

Douglas Fletcher said at September 2, 2010 11:31 AM:

I'm so glad I don't know anything. It cuts down on the number goofy theories I have to keep track of.

Conor said at September 2, 2010 2:53 PM:

"Why must the difference between causality and association be explained for every news story?"

Why do Internet commentators on news stories assume, usually without any information, that the study wasn't designed to control for likely associations?

HLee said at September 2, 2010 2:54 PM:

The reason you see this false connection is that moderate alcohol drinkers tend to socialize more, meaning they have more friends than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers. Thus this is a study showing that people who are around other people more tend to live longer - better social support systems, better adapted to live in modern society, thus less stressed, happier, etc.

cirby said at September 2, 2010 5:48 PM:

You can experience this first hand yourself by mixing a ounce of apple cider vinegar in a plastic bottle with a little honey and filled with water, and drinking it throughout the day.

You will lose several pounds after a couple of weeks (moderate weight loss).

Of course you might not like the taste

...which explains the weight loss...

Randall Parker said at September 3, 2010 8:46 PM:

Conor,

Exactly. And the researchers did try to control for a great many things.

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