New research by doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health finds that women who drink moderately in mid-age are somewhat more likely to have better physical and mental health in old age than those who don’t drink at all.
The study doesn’t necessarily prove moderate drinking will lead to better health than not drinking since there could be other factors in play…also, the research didn’t compare the long-term cost of alcoholic vs. non-alcoholic beverages.
Published in the September issue of PLoS Magazine, researchers led by Dr. Qi Sun examined the health records of 13,894 nurses who were considered middle-aged in the 1980s (…median age of 58) and lived to at least age 70. From there, researchers focused on 1,491 women who didn’t have any chronic conditions like diabetes.
Of these women who aged to at least 70 and didn’t have any chronic health problems, only 22% were non-drinkers…62% had at least one drink per day, 10% had two drinks per day and 3% consumed three or more drinks per day.
Adjusting their statistics to factor in things like age and whether they smoked, researchers found that the healthiest women were more likely to have been drinkers in midlife. According to Dr. Sun’s estimates, moderate drinkers were 20% more likely to be healthy in their later lives.
Through this and other studies, scientists have found evidence of how moderate drinking benefits health, namely reducing risk of heart disease and stroke and increasing brain function. While it isn’t clear how moderate alcohol consumption benefits health, Dr. Sun says it may have something to do with how alcohol reduces inflammation in the body.
Also, Dr. Sun doesn’t recommend women start drinking if they don’t already. But “…if you are an otherwise healthy person, and you’re a long-term light-to-moderate drinker, this may have some benefits,” says the good doctor.