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September 09, 2011

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My father was an alcoholic. I know that in his case drinking ended his life prematurely. He died at 55 from end stage liver failure. Personally, it hurts me to see studies that promote the use of alcohol having known how it can destroy lives. I understand that my father was consuming much more than those in the study, but I would hate to see someone take up drinking to have healthy aging.

SG, good point. While alcohol may be useful in warding off some problems associated with aging, using it widely in an elderly population could be problematic. According to Goodman and Gilman, one reason alcohol concentrations tend to be higher in women than men is because they have less body water. One change that occurs with aging, is a decrease in body water. Thus, the elderly may be more affected by consuming alcohol. This could be especially dangerous in those at an increased risk for falling. Alcohol can also interact with several medications, which elderly patients may be taking. Before trying any new remedy, be sure to think about all of the risks and benefits!

I am assuming that the researchers would not recommend non-drinkers to start drinking alcohol even in moderation for healthy aging.

This is an interesting article but I totally agree with MA. Since this study only focused on women, we can not just assume that alcohol helps any people to promote a better health. I would like to see more studies involving men and other ethinic groups.

PR, you made some great points. I am especially concerned with the risk of any alcohol consumption turning into a alcohol dependence issue. Assuming more studies confirm the finding that moderate alcohol consumption leads to healthy aging, I hope it will never be touted as an effective therapy for the elderly!

Jesni, you make an excellent point about possible confounding factors affecting the results of this study. However, while alcohol may make a person feel more relaxed and ready to sleep, an article on CNN.com talks about a study showing that women don't sleep as well after consuming alcohol as they do when they have not had a drink. While this wasn't found to be as much of a problem in men, it is generally recommended to avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bed in order to maintain good sleep hygiene.

I too am curious to see how this would compare in men. Also the study talks about midlife consumption of alcohol and not a life-long consumption of alcohol. Also what about individuals who are not able to metabolize alcohol? I agree with PR regarding the acceptance of research focused on a potentially addictive and harmful activity.

Like other commenter's, I am weary about these results. The researchers used data from food frequency questionnaires to assess alcohol consumption. This can potentially cause errors in the study due to recall bias. Also, it doesn't seem like a very effective way of showing causation, but only shows a correlation between the alcohol and aging.

This article, while an interesting topic, makes me very vary. First, the article only focuses on women, and does not include men or differentiate between different ethnicities. I think these are all important factors to take into account since genetic and sex variances can affect how alcohol is metabolized in the body. The results also combine the total alcohol content of the drinks into one category, but do not differentiate between the types. It has been proven time again that red wine is beneficial for the cardiovascular system but we do not know how much or what types of alcoholic drinks these women were drinking. Therefore, we cannot assume that any and all alcoholic beverages will have the same effect on a person’s longevity. While I think this is a novel and interesting finding, I think we should be cautious about the results of this study because a general consumer may read this and misconstrue its meaning without understanding the weaknesses of the study.

All of the comments so far are great... I agree that there are many compounding factors that you must think about when looking at the results of this study. I am also wondeirng, for example, how much the relaxation/euphoric effects of moderate alcohol consumption may have lead to more positive outcomes in this population. Did moderate alcohol consumption provide consistent mind/body relaxation during the week for these individuals, and did that have cumulative effects over time? We know that proper rest and relaxation is important to have in our daily lives and can lead to positive health benefits.

Like many foods/beverages/supplements alcohol might not be the best choice for everyone and is certainly dangerous if consumed in abundance. However, the results of this study are interesting and may be attractive to many people who enjoy a 'cold one' with dinner or a happy hour special after work. We've heard that wine can be good for you, but seeing that alcohol in general may hold some benefit is kind of exciting. I'd be interested in seeing more studies on this topic and ones that dissect the topic a bit more to see if certain types of alcohol have different effects.

Interesting article.. but I am leery about the study and the result. Alcohol can be good and bad at a same time. It might bring some promising effects for people who can well tolerate alcohol in the liver, but it might not bring same effects on Asian population since only 50%of asian people can tolerate alcohol. Some asian people don't have certain enzyme to breaks down alcohol properly in the liver, and that can lead to severe health issues. This is why the word "Asian flush" usually refers to people who get allergic reactions from drinking alcohol.

Great points, BB. This type of study is also limited by many potential confounding factors. How much of the modest benefit could be attributed to other lifestyle choices is a significant question. I can see how there could be an association between those who have one or two alcoholic beverages most regularly and those who are most engaged and productive in their careers (the work hard/play moderately contingent).

The results of the study are relevant to the women only. I am curious to see what conclusions can be drawn from the studies involving men and light-to-moderate alcohol consumption. Another limitation of the study is that the results cannot be generalized to other ethnic groups where diet, lifestyle, and other factors may vary greatly compared to the population (registered nurses with European ancestry) mentioned in the article.

Natural Standard’s Bottom Line monograph mentions that alcoholism is slightly more common in lower income and less educated groups. Bottom Line monograph also states that in the US, Medicare population was found to have just as many alcohol-related hospitalizations as there were for heart attack, and about one third to one half develop alcoholism after the age of 60 years. While the results of the study may show the benefits of alcohol and healthy aging, there is always a risk of light-to-moderate alcohol consumption turning into a alcohol dependence issue. There are environmental, psychological, or genetic factors that may lead to loss of control over how many drinks one may consume.

Interesting article, but personally I am always hesitant to accept research that focuses on establishing associations between alcohol consumption and healthy living/health aging. Even the best outcome (odds ratio = 1.28) with the light-to-moderate alcohol consumption group (15.1-30.0g of alcohol per day) was only cited as a modest/slight improvement. In my opinion the potential harm/risks associated with continual alcohol use outweigh any potential benefits.

(That being said, sometimes having a beer just hits the spot).

In case anyone was curious, according to the CDC one standard alcoholic drink has about 13.5grams (or about 0.5 ounces) of pure alcohol

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