There are many reasons to avoid alcohol (calories, impaired senses, beer-goggles...), but maybe you don't want to give up on the evening glass of wine. That at least is the conclusion of a recent study, published in the April 30 edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which concludes that consuming a moderate amount of wine on a daily basis over many years is associated with longer life-expectancy. And by the way, all of the subjects were men.
The research, conducted in the Netherlands, used information gathered as part of a previous study that tracked 1373 men, all born between 1900 and 1920, and repeatedly examined them from 1960 to 2000. The men reported their alcohol intake over the course of those forty years, and by applying regression models to them, the Dutch scientists were able to associate alcohol consumption with life expectancy—regardless of factors such as diet and other lifestyle habits (think: smoking). Since these habits are closely linked with socio-economic status (as is wine-drinking), finding a wine effect that is true across all groups is potentially very significant. Likewise, as the researchers point out, "Light to moderate alcohol intake lowers the risk of cardiovascular mortality, but whether this protective effect can be attributed to a specific type of beverage remains unclear." In other words, are all alcohols created equal?
Apparently not. In short, the researchers found that drinking a little alcohol on a regular basis—so, 20 grams per day as compared with no alcohol at all— was associated with a lower risk of dying during the study period. That's death from coronary heart disease, stroke, or any other causes. But more than that, they found that, whatever one's total alcohol intake, anyone who drank a moderate amount of wine (less than half a glass per day) for a long time stood a substantially lowered risk of dying of any cause. How much lowered? Men who drank wine on a daily basis could expect to live five years longer than men who did not drink alcohol at all, and two and a half years longer than men who drank beer and/or spirits instead. So in other words: a little alcohol of any kind makes you live longer; but especially if that alcohol is wine.
The evidence is hopeful for the future of humanity and the future of fun dinner parties. On that front, among the interesting secondary observations of the study is that men—well, at least Dutch men—drink much more than they used to. In 1960, when the study's data began, some 45 percent of the men reported drinking at all; by 1960, it was 86 percent of them. Equally surprising, the consumption of wine—no doubt thanks to increased production and greater availability—has gone from two percent of men drinking it in 1960 to 44 percent in 2000. Hopefully, jumps in wine-related life-expectancy will be the result of all of this diligent alcohol consumption.