However, the role of moderate alcohol consumption in overall health among ageing populations has not been determined. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) sought to determine if moderate alcohol consumption during midlife was related to overall successful aging in women. They found that women who consume one alcoholic drink at midlife may be healthier when older when compared to women who do not drink at all. This research is published in the September 7, 2011 issue of PLoS Medicine.
“The US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines suggest that moderate alcohol consumption, up to one drink per day for women and two for men, may provide health benefits in some people. Our findings support this recommendation and show that one drink per day at midlife may benefit the health of older women in the US,” said Qi Sun, a researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH and lead author of the paper.
Researchers evaluated alcohol consumption during middle age in 121, 700 participants in BWH’s Nurses’ Health Study using data from food frequency questionnaires. They included participants who were not heavier drinkers when middle-aged and examined the health status in the 13,984 women who lived to 70 years and over. After controlling for other factors such as smoking, body mass index, and family history of heart disease, researchers found that regular, moderate alcohol consumption during middle age is related to successful aging, which is defined as having no major chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, and no major cognitive and physical impairment, or mental health limitations-in those who live to 70 years and beyond.
Specifically researchers report that women who drank 5-15 g of alcohol per day, which equals 1/3 – 1 drink, had about a 20 percent higher chance of successful aging when compared to non-drinkers. Women who consumed alcohol on a regular basis had a better chance of good overall health when older; when compared to occasional drinkers and when compared to women who didn’t drink, women who drank five to seven days a week had almost 50% greater chance of successful aging.
This research was funded by the NIH, the Pilot and Feasibility program sponsored by the Boston Obesity Nutrition Research Center, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Institute on Aging.