American Heart Association Journal: Moderate Alcohol Consumption One of Five Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors That Could Significantly Improve Longevity

A new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation confirms that moderate alcohol consumption is one of five healthy lifestyle behaviors that could help people live longer.  The study found those who consumed alcohol in moderation had a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease deaths than those who did not drink.

According to the study, “Impact of Health Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the U.S. Population,” the five lifestyle behaviors were: having never smoked, a healthy body mass index, moderate to vigorous exercise, moderate alcohol intake (as defined as 5-15 g/day for women, 5-30 g/day for men) and a healthy diet.  Each was “associated with a low risk of premature mortality” and “following all five lifestyle behaviors significantly improved longevity for both men and women.”

The study found that adherence to the “five low-risk lifestyle-related factors” could prolong life expectancy at age 50 years by 14.0 and 12.2 years for female and male US adults compared with individuals who adopted zero low-risk lifestyle factors.

Researchers analyzed data from two major ongoing cohort studies that include dietary, lifestyle and medical information on thousands of adults in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These data were combined with National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, as well as mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to estimate the impact of lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the U.S. population.

In 2011, the CDC reported similar findings in its study, “Low Risk Lifestyle Behaviors and All-Cause Mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study,”  which was published online in the American Journal of Public Health.  Researchers analyzed data from 16,958 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study from 1988 to 2006.  The researchers found that each lifestyle behavior was significant in reducing mortality, and found that the greatest benefit was when moderate alcohol consumption was included with the other three lifestyle behaviors.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderation as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age. According to the Dietary Guidelines, a drink-equivalent is defined as 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol) such as rum, vodka, gin and whiskey; 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5 percent alcohol); or 5 fluid ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol). Each standard drink-equivalent contains 14 grams of alcohol. The Distilled Spirits Council always has urged adults who choose to drink to do so responsibly and in moderation following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

The Council does not recommend that people drink alcohol for potential health benefits and even drinking in moderation may pose health risks to some people and some individuals should not drink at all.