April 29, 2009 -- A little alcohol each day may be good for you, increasing your life span, and quaffing it down in a glass of wine -- make that half a glass -- may be the best way to get your daily dose, a new study suggests.
Researchers in the Netherlands conclude in a large study that drinking up to about half a glass of wine daily may boost life expectancy, at least in middle-aged men, by five years compared to men who men who drank no alcohol.
The scientists say life expectancy was slightly less for men who drank more than 20 grams of a day.
Their findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The Dutch researchers studied the records of 1,373 randomly selected men whose cardiovascular health and life expectancy at age 50 were monitored repeatedly between 1960 and 2000. The men were born between 1900 and 1920.
The scientists looked at the impact of various kinds of drinking, including the consumption of beer and hard liquor, as well as diets of the men, habits like smoking, and their overall health.
The researchers investigated how much alcohol the men drank, the form in which it was consumed and for what period of time, and whether they smoked or had any serious illness.
They conclude that light, long-term consumption of all types of alcohol, up to 20 grams a day, extended life by about two years, compared to men who drank no alcohol. But wine was best, according to the researchers.
Men who drank only wine, and less than half a glass, lived 2 1/2 years longer than those who drank beer or spirits, and nearly five years longer than men who drank no booze at all.
Drinking wine was strongly associated with a lower risk of dying from coronary artery disease and death from all causes.
During the 40 years of monitoring, 1,130 of the 1,373 men died. More than half of the deaths were attributable to cardiovascular disease.
The proportion of men who drank alcohol nearly doubled from 45% in 1960 to 86% in 2000. And the proportion of men who drank wine skyrocketed from 2% in 1960 to 44% 40 years later.
The apparent positive effects from drinking held true regardless of dietary and other lifestyle habits and socioeconomic levels.
“To our knowledge, we are the first to study the effects of absolute alcohol intake and type of alcoholic beverage on life expectancy,” the authors write, adding that more research is needed.