The surprising drinking habit that gives you the ‘highest probability of reaching 90

Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer

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Decades of research has made the path to longevity quite predictable – the ills of smoking and eating processed meats should scarcely raise an eyebrow by now. Occasionally, however, research produces a finding that challenges orthodoxies. The key finding of a study published in the journal Age and Ageing falls into this category.

The study explored the impact alcohol consumption in later life has on longevity.

“Whether light-to-moderate alcohol intake is related to reduced mortality remains a subject of intense research and controversy,” wrote the study researchers.

They acknowledged that there “are very few studies available on alcohol and reaching longevity”.

To remedy this, they investigated the relationship between different approaches to alcohol drinking and the probability to reach 90 years of age.

Analyses were conducted using data from the Netherlands Cohort Study, a population study that explored the association between dietary intake and health outcomes.

Participants born in 1916–1917 completed a questionnaire in 1986 (age 68–70 years) and were followed up until the age of 90 years.

“We found statistically significant positive associations between baseline alcohol intake and the probability of reaching 90 years in both men and women,” the researchers wrote.

Overall, the highest probability of reaching 90 was found in those consuming five to 15 g/d alcohol, when compared with abstainers, they found.

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Wine intake was positively associated with longevity (notably in women), whereas liquor was positively associated with longevity in men and inversely in women.

Binge drinking pointed towards reduced longevity.

Alcohol intake was associated with longevity in those without and with a history of selected diseases.

What are the current recommendations for drinking alcohol?

With so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots to pints – not to mention bottles – it’s easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink.

Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink.

One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.

This means that within an hour there should be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in the blood of an adult, although this will vary from person to person.

The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink, as well as its alcohol strength.

For example, a pint of strong lager contains three units of alcohol, whereas the same volume of low-strength lager has just over two units.

“Knowing your units will help you stay in control of your drinking,” notes the NHS.

According to the health body, to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • 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.

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