Moderate drinking may be good for health

Updated: Aug 25, 2010, 15:32 PM IST

Washington: Middle-aged and older adults who drink moderately may live longer than those who abstain or drink heavily, a new study has claimed.

The 20-year-long study that examined alcohol intake and mortality risk of over 1,800 adults found that drinking moderately -- or having one to less than three drinks per day --reduces mortality risk significantly.

But the health benefits of moderate drinking as suggested by many previous studies may have been a bit exaggerated, said the study authors.

"None of the (previous) studies have been experimental in which a group of people was randomly chosen to drink a particular amount of alcohol or to not drink alcohol," said study author Alison A Moore of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"All have been observational studies, meaning those in which persons who consume varying amounts of alcohol are compared with those who don`t.

"Because conditions in these observational studies are not controlled and the characteristics of persons who choose to drink varying amounts of alcohol or not differ quite a bit, it is impossible to prove that alcohol consumption causes reduced risks for coronary heart disease, diabetes or mortality."

For the current study, the researchers followed 1,824 former or current drinkers aged 55 to 65 for the two decades and examined their late-life alcohol use and mortality risk, taking into consideration factors such as previous problem drinking.

During the study period, they collected information regarding how many drinks each person had daily, health status, history of alcohol use, and other influencing factors. Death certificates confirmed any of the participants` death.

The study confirmed a "survival effect" association between moderate drinking and the mortality risk among middle-aged and older adults.

They found that death was highest among heavy drinkers and people who did not drink, when researchers took into consideration only age and gender. It was also found that nondrinkers (abstainers) had a more than two times increased mortality risk than people who drank in moderation.

Controlling for additional factors, including former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and others still showed a significantly reduced mortality risk in people with moderate alcohol consumption.