Moderate Drinking May Lengthen Life
More Isn't Better -- Heavy Drinking Is a Hazard, Study Shows
Dec. 11, 2006 -- Moderate drinking may lengthen life, but heavy drinking
raises the risk of death, Italian researchers say.
They define moderate drinking as two to four drinks a day for men; one to
two drinks for women.
"Heavy" drinking is anything beyond that. Light drinking is greater
than zero but below the moderate amounts.
The Italian study's definition of moderate drinking is higher than the
typical U.S. standard of up to two daily drinks for men and one for women.
In the U.S., a standard drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 8 ounces of malt
liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
"Heavy drinkers should be urged to cut their consumption, but people who
already regularly consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol should be
encouraged to continue," write the researchers.
They included Augusto di Castelnuovo, ScD, of Catholic University in
The researchers pooled data from 34 observational studies conducted in
Europe, the U.S., Australia, Japan, and China.
The studies looked at more than 1 million people in total, with participants
reporting their drinking habits.
The studies lasted from six to 26 years.
During that time, moderate drinkers were about 18% less likely to die of any
cause than teetotalers and light drinkers.
Other observational studies have linked moderate drinking to heart benefits.
The new Italian report covers deaths from all causes, not just heart-related
Meanwhile, heavy drinkers were more likely to die of any cause, and the more
they drank, the higher their risk of death.
That finding "confirms the hazards of excess drinking," write the
"Our data show that consumption of little amounts of alcohol leads to a
reduction of mortality up to 18%," di Castelnuovo says in a news
"But after a certain number of glasses, things radically change," he
People who drink too much increase their death risk "in relation to the
amount of alcohol consumed," di Castelnuovo explains.
In short, if you're going to drink, don't overindulge. And, of course, don't
drink and drive.
The researchers stop short of suggesting that teetotalers start drinking for
health benefits or that light drinkers increase consumption.
They also caution that further studies are needed to check their