The research has been a little mixed on alcohol lately. It's been said that drinking alcohol isn't healthy, as it leads to inflammation and can raise the risk of various diseases. Too much booze (and empty calories) can also lead to unwanted weight gain. There were even some bold studies published recently that claimed that no amount of alcohol is beneficial, period. A large, global review of studies published in The Lancet claimed that no amount of alcohol was safe to consume. "I got a lot of inquiries from patients," David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center at Griffin Hospital and EatingWell advisory board member told EatingWell. "No question, the study really resonated and made people anxious."
Pictured Recipe: Red Sangria
However, new research shows that drinking alcohol might actually help extend your life, giving us all a whole new reason to indulge in that glass of vino or martini. A recently published study claims that drinking booze can reduce mortality rate in people of older age, as published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Of course this doesn't mean you should drink five cocktails a day (which is certainly not good for your health), but drinking in moderation as you age could keep you alive and well.
Read more: Is Drinking Alcohol Bad for My Health?
The New Research
The researchers looked at about 8,000 older adults, all who were born between 1931 and 1941. They then recorded their drinking habits and interviewed them twice a year, each year, from 1998 to 2014. The participants were sorted into five categories: lifetime abstainers, current abstainers, heavy drinkers, moderate drinkers, and occasional drinkers.
And the results? Moderate and occasional drinkers had the lowest mortality rates, compared to heavy drinkers and abstainers. Current abstainers had the highest mortality rate; however, other factors could've contributed, such as other health complications, which may have forced them to give up alcohol.
Related: Health Benefits of Drinking Wine
So, Should You Drink?
Yes and no. It's still a little bit complicated The authors of the study said that people should proceed with caution, as there could have been biases and measurement errors in the work, and more research is definitely necessary to create a clear link to the benefits of booze in moderation.
It's also tricky to make blanket health recommendations around alcohol. If breast cancer runs in your family, you may want to abstain since alcohol is linked to breast cancer risk. But if you have a family history of heart disease, a glass of wine may be beneficial for your health. Of course, drinking alcohol isn't the only key to better health. Going for a walk and eating more vegetables are two other behaviors that may give you a health boost (without a downside).
If you already drink in moderation, the good news is, there's no reason to give it up. You might benefit by living longer, or you'll at least remain as healthy as you can be into your older years. If you binge drink or drink heavily, that's another story. You should try and stop, as it's bad for your liver and can be detrimental to your health in other ways. If you are abstinent, but would like to drink on occasion, you can definitely slowly introduce it into your lifestyle and see how you feel, but you can also keep on resisting booze and stick with water. This study alone isn't reason to start drinking if you don't have a desire to.
If you're not sure where you fall on the spectrum of drinking, here's a guide to light, moderate and heavy drinking:
- Light Drinking: 1 to 6 drinks per week
- Moderate Alcohol Consumption:7 drinks a week for women, up to 14 for men
- High-Risk/Heavy Alcohol Use:3 drinks or more on a single occasion or more than 7 per week for women; more than 4 drinks daily or more than 14 per week for men.