Moderate Drinking May Offer Benefits to Women
Middle-aged women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol may end up in better physical and mental health in old age than women who don't drink.
In a recent study, researchers found evidence that moderate drinking can benefit health, particularly in terms of heart disease, stroke, and brain function. It's not clear exactly how alcohol achieves this, but it may have something to do with how alcohol reduces inflammation in the body.
Qi Sun, M.D., at Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues came to this conclusion after examining the medical records of 13,894 nurses who were middle-aged in the 1980s (the median age was 58) and lived to be at least 70. The women's health was updated through the decades, and the study excluded heavy drinkers or those with possible alcohol problems.
The researchers then focused on 11 percent of those women who had aged successfully and compared them with the others in an attempt to determine whether those who drank in midlife -- they tended to drink wine -- did any better health-wise.
After adjusting their statistics for various factors, such as smoking and chronic disease, researchers found that the healthiest women in old age were more likely to have been drinkers in midlife. Dr. Sun estimated that the moderate drinkers were about 20 percent more likely to be healthy later in life.
And routinely drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol appeared to have more benefit than drinking only occasionally.
Regardless of the possible benefits, Dr. Sun points out that this doesn't mean that moderate drinking is better than not drinking, since other factors could account for the difference. Nor does the research examine the long-term cost of drinking wine instead of milk with dinner, for instance.
And, the results of the study should not be an excuse for middle-aged women to start drinking if they don't already. Alcohol can have adverse affects on chronic conditions and may cause adverse reaction when combined with medications.
Always talk with your health care provide to find out more information.