Can Alcohol Help You Live Longer? Here's What the Research Really Says

Can Alcohol Help You Live Longer? Here's What the Research Really Says
From TIME - February 20, 2018

New research, which was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences annual conference, has found that moderate drinking is linked to a longer life. Drinking about two glasses of wine or beer a day was linked to an 18% drop in a persons risk of early deathan even stronger effect than the life-preserving practice of exercise, according to the researchers. The results came from the 90+ Study, a research project out of the University of California Irvines Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders that examines the habits of people who live to at least 90.

Though the study has not yet been published in a scientific journal, it triggered a spate of booze-praising headlines. But can alcohol actually help you live longer? Researchers have gone back and forth on that question for years. Heres what the research really says about alcohol and health.

Alcohol may be linked with longevity

The new study isnt the first to link alcohol with a long life. A 2015 study of people with mild Alzheimers, for example, found that moderate drinkers were less likely to die during the studys follow-up period than teetotalers. A large 2017 study also found that light and moderate drinkers were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who never sipped. Red wine, in particular, is often singled out for its anti-aging benefits, usually because of a compound called resveratrolthough that explanation may be a little oversimplified, and more research is needed.

Many of these papers come with caveats, however. Most of them are observational, meaning they can detect patterns in a dataset, but not cause and effect. That means its hard to tell whether the beverages themselves are imparting longevity benefits, or if the health effects come from other lifestyle factors common among moderate drinkers, such as a strong social network. Plus, most research focuses specifically on moderate drinking, which is typically defined as no more than a drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Research has generally not found health benefits for people with heavier drinking habitsand, in fact, a recent report says that alcohol abuse is contributing to a decline in U.S. life expectancy.

Alcohol may or may not be good for your heart

The relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular health is perhaps the most contentious of all. Quite a few studies have linked moderate drinking with better heart health, but some researchers have questioned these findings based on something called the abstainer bias: the idea that many non-drinkers teetotal because they have other health issues, or because theyre recovering from addiction. Including these folks in studies could skew the data to make people who dont drink look unfairly unhealthy, and to falsely equate booze with health benefits.

Alcohol may be associated with cancer

Alcohol may contribute to weight gain

The bottom line


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