Can Drinking Alcohol Help You Live Longer?

In lieu of a recent interview with a Pennsylvania woman who turned 100, we are wondering if alcohol is the secret to living a long life.  The PA centenarian credited daily alcohol imbibing for her lengthy life.  Another 100 year old from Staten Island gave her recipe for a long life as “two glasses of wine with lunch, Southern Comfort at 4 p.m., and a can of Budweiser in the evening” in a previous interview.  Lots of alcohol seems to be the trend when it comes to successfully growing old.  We definitely aren’t recommending excessive or heavy drinking, but moderate drinking (1-2 drinks per day) seems to have plenty of health benefits aside from the longevity we see in these older people.  

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Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of alcohol, and how it might contribute to living a longer and healthier life.

1. it’s good for your heart

Most of us have heard that a glass of red wine is good for your heart, but it is actually the polyphenols in red wine that promote heart health.  Research has found that in moderation, these compounds can increase good cholesterol and reduce the risk of blood clots that form in the arteries that can typically lead to heart attacks or stroke. Because heart disease and stroke are the most common killers in people over the age of 65, this is probably the biggest factor in increasing length of life.  Additionally, a study review in BMC Medicine last year found that people who drank moderately had the lowest risk of heart disease compared to non-drinker and heavy drinkers.  

2. It can reduce the risk of dementia

The jury is still out on why moderate alcohol consumption can stave off dementia, but it could be making brain cells stronger and better able to deal with future stresses.  In a large scale 23 year study, moderate drinkers were over 20% less likely to develop dementia or other types of cognitive impairments.  The theory is that the alcohol toughens up brain cells so that they can fight off cognitive disease later in life.

3. Lowers the risk of diabetes

A few studies have highlighted the fact that moderate drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers.  One Dutch study showed that this benefit was seen in healthy adults who had 1-2 glasses of wine per day.  Again, moderate consumption was where studies have seen the most benefit in reducing the chance of diabetes through alcohol.  It is thought that in moderation, alcohol may help control blood sugar levels, hence the positive benefit for diabetes risk.

The bottom line? Alcohol in moderation can help you live longer and perhaps healthier.  Add this to a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise, and the chances of you living longer, maybe even to 100, are sure to increase.