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How daily drink helps women age gracefully

Wednesday September 7th, 2011

A small, daily drink of alchohol seems to help women stave off chronic illness in later life, researchers reported today.

Previous studies have suggested that a low alcohol consumption may extend the lifespan, so Dr Qi Sun of Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA, and colleagues looked at the link in people who have survived to older age.

They measured drinking levels of 13,894 women at about 58 years of age, and followed them up at age 70. Participants were all involved in the large US-based Nurses' Health Study. Heavy drinkers were excluded.

In the study, "successful ageing" was defined as being free of 11 major chronic diseases and having no major cognitive or physical impairment, or mental health limitations.

Overall, ten per cent achieved successful ageing. When risk factors such as smoking were taken into account, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with about a 20 per cent raised chance of successful ageing, compared with not drinking.

This equates to five to 15 grams of alcohol per day, or a half to one and a half units in the UK - roughly equivalent to a glass of wine. Binge drinking slightly lowered the chance of successful ageing, say the researchers in PLoS Medicine.

They conclude: "These data suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at mid-life may be related to a modest increase in overall health status among women who survive to older ages.

"The 2010 US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines note that moderate alcohol consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men may provide health benefits in some people. Our data support this recommendation."

Sun, Q. et al. Alcohol Consumption at Midlife and Successful Ageing in Women: A Prospective Cohort Analysis in the Nurses' Health Study. PLoS Medicine 2011, 8(9): e1001090.

Tags: Drug and Alcohol Abuse | North America | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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