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Longevity, Quality of Life & Low-risk Drinking

What is Optimal Level of Population Alcohol Consumption for Chronic Disease Prevention in England? Modeling the Impact of Changes in Average Consumption Levels BMJ Open 2 (3) May 30, 2012 Researchers from Oxford University. as part of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, performed a meta-analysis of the death toll of eleven conditions known to be associated with long-term alcohol consumption such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and five different cancers. Estimates of weekly alcohol consumption for 15,000 English adults from the 2006 General Household Survey and mortality data from the Office for National Statistics were used. The results indicated that cutting alcohol intake to half a unit a day would avert 4,579 premature deaths in England each year (primarily from cancers and liver disease) and cutting consumption would lead to 843 extra deaths each year (in part from an increase in cardiovascular mortality). The authors of the study state that current UK government recommendations for alcohol consumption (3 to 4 units a day for men and 2 to 3 units a day for women) are well above the level likely to minimize chronic disease. The researchers recommend that the English restrict their alcohol consumption to no more than a half unit a day for men and women (just a few gulps) or no more than three glasses of wine a week.

Lack of International Consensus in Low-risk Drinking Guidelines Drug and Alcohol Review 32 (1) June 5, 2012 This research found that the government advice on low-risk drinking varies widely among different countries and there is no international agreement about whether women should drink as much as men or only half as much. Some countries advise drinkers to avoid alcohol one or two days per week and other countries, such as the United States, make no such recommendation.

Press Release from Richard de Visser, PhD, part of a special themed issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Review on low risk drinking guidelines. Secondary and college students in England completed a survey on their knowledge and beliefs of governmental guidelines on safe alcohol consumption. Most of those who responded did not have the knowledge to drink according to government guidelines. Participants underestimate the unit content of drinks and their “usual” drinks were substantially larger than one unit.

Wine Consumption and 20-year Mortality Among Late-Life Moderate Drinkers J of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 73 (1) January 2012 A self-reporting study of 802 adults between 55 and 65 years of age at baseline. Three groups were studied: abstainers, high-wine-consumption moderate drinkers, and low-wineconsumption moderate drinkers. When all confounding factors are controlled, there is no difference in mortality rate between wine drinkers and other alcoholic beverage drinkers. The apparent lower mortality rate for wine drinkers is related to behavioral, lifestyle, social and health factors rather than wine consumption. The study did show that high-wine-consumption and low-wine-consumption moderate drinkers had reduced mortality risk compared to abstainers but it did not show that this effect was due to wine specifically or just alcohol. Those for whom a low amount of ethanol came from wine showed a substantially increased 20-year mortality risk of 85%, but, when controlling for all covariates, the mortality difference associated with wine consumption was no longer significant. The study did not differentiate between red and white wine and did not inquire about binge drinking.

PLoS ONE January 20, 2012 UCLA scientists found that small amounts of ethanol improved the survival of roundworm larvae (from 12 days to as long as 40 days). The dose was equivalent to one beer in a hundred gallons of water. The mechanism is unknown but the organism may be using ethanol directly as a precursor for biosynthesis of high-energy metabolic intermediates or indirectly as a signal to extend life span.

Alcohol Use Patterns and Trajectories of Health-Related Quality of Life in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A 14-Year Population Based Study J of Studies Alcohol and Drugs 73 July 2012 This 14-year population-based study looked at especially persistent moderate use of alcohol in a sample of 5,404 Canadians ages 50 and older at baseline obtained from the National Population Health Survey. Persistent moderate drinkers had higher initial levels of health-related quality of life than persistent nonusers, persistent former users, and decreasing users, with rates of decline over time similar for all groups except those decreasing their consumption, who had a greater decline in their level of health-related quality of life than persistent moderate users. In summary, drinking in moderation (21 units a week for men and 14 for women using 5 ounces as 1 unit) in a consistent, responsible manner is associated with an overall improvement in health, well being and happiness. Moderate alcohol consumption did not have a measurable deleterious effect over time. The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research largely supports the paper’s findings.