How to live longer: The surprising drink which could be the secret to long life expectancy

How to live longer: The surprising drink which could be the secret to long life expectancy

24/02/2020

Looking at the leading causes of death in the world makes for gloomy reading but it does underline the importance of eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise. That’s because obesity and heart disease, both of which are major killers, are largely preventable if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle. While evidence continues to shore up self-evident truths, it also occasionally makes surprising discoveries.

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Adding to the eyebrow-raising literature is a new study published in the journal Age and Ageing, which found a strong association between having a daily tipple and living to the age of 90.

The study found that men and women who enjoyed a daily drink were up to 40 per cent more likely to make it to their 90th birthday than those who were teetotal, or rarely indulged.

This is not a licence to drink with reckless abandon however. The benefits were only observed in those who stuck to one drink a day – binge drinkers died earlier.

Furthermore, the findings also differentiate between men and women, finding that drinking wine is most conducive to a long life for women and spirits like whisky, brandy or gin brought longevity benefits for men.

How did the researchers arrive at this verdict?

Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Centre in The Netherlands tracked than 5,000 men and women, most of whom were born during World War 1 of 1914-18.

When they were in their sixties and seventies, the volunteers were quizzed on their drinking habits before researchers then monitored them to see how many made it to 90.

The results showed 34 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men survived to that age.

But when they compared daily drinkers with abstainers, they found men and women downing five to 10g of alcohol a day were 40 per cent more likely to reach 90 years of age.

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Ten grammes of alcohol is roughly equivalent to a small glass of wine, a standard measure of a spirit or half a pint of beer.

What’s more, drinking up to 15g a day saw a slight increase in participants’ chances of reaching 90.

However, exceeding 15g cancelled out the longevity benefits associated with alcohol consumption as larger daily intakes of alcohol led to premature death.

Commenting on their findings, researcher Dr Piet A. van den Brandt said: “We found alcohol intake was positively associated with the probability of reaching 90 years of age in both men and women.

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“Wine was associated with women reaching 90 but not with men. Instead, intake of gin, brandy and whisky increased their longevity.”

While the results are encouraging, this is not an endorsement to take up drinking, warned researchers.

As they point out, alcohol can interfere with prescription medications taken by most older people and although their findings showed drinkers live longer, it’s not necessarily the case that they are healthier.

What does the NHS say?

According to the health body, the following tips will ensure you keep the risks associated with alcohol consumption at bay:

  • Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • Spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
  • If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week

Fourteen units is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

What are the potential risks posed by drinking too much alcohol?

According to the NHS, there’s now a better understanding of the link between drinking and some illnesses, including a range of cancers.

“The previously held position that some level of alcohol was good for the heart has been revised,” notes the health body.

It adds: “It’s now thought that the evidence on the protective effect from moderate drinking is less strong than previously thought.”

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