But there’s a very fine line
By Becky Fletcher
Occasionally indulging in a glass of your favourite wine or beer is one of life’s pleasures for many adults. Consuming alcohol in moderation for most over 18s can be enjoyed alongside a balanced diet, with low risk alcohol unit guidelines suggesting that it’s safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week – roughly six pints or glasses of wine.
Now a large-scale study suggests having a beer or wine every day – roughly sticking to the recommended guidelines – could help older people live longer. In fact, the researchers argue the potential “protective” benefits of moderate drinking “clearly outweigh” the possible cancer risk, particularly within the elderly.
Scientists from the University of Texas and Shandong in China tracked over 333,000 Americans for eight years and separated them in to six categories: ex-drinkers, current light drinkers who have less than three drinks a week, moderate drinkers (3-14 a week for men or 3-7 for women) or heavy drinkers (14+ for men and 7+ for women).
Moderate drinkers were 22% less likely to die over the study period, compared to those who were teetotal. Deaths from cardiovascular disease were 29% less likely with moderate drinkers.
Despite these findings, the study’s authors were quick to point out a delicate tipping point between the benefits of moderate drinking and its health benefits and consuming too much alcohol and its adverse impact on health. People who consumed more alcohol than their moderate counterparts were 11% more likely to die than those who abstained from alcohol all their lives. While, heavy drinking increased the risk of cancer by 67% compared to those who don’t drink.
Dr Bo Xi of the School of Public Health at Shandong University in China said: “Light-to-moderate drinking might have some protective effects against cardiovascular disease, while heavy drinking can lead to death. A delicate balance exists between the beneficial and detrimental effects of alcohol consumption, which should be stressed to consumers and patients.”
The research wasn’t a controlled experiment and the team had to rely on survey participants accurately reporting how much alcohol they consumed. The study authors reiterated that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation.
Reuters report that Dr. Giovanni de Gaetano, author of an accompanying editorial, says that even though the study can’t explain how moderate drinking could lead to a longer life, it does show how the risk of death increases when you drink more than you should.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.