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Is Drinking Alcohol Shortening Your Life?

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Is a glass of wine with dinner part of your healthy eating strategy? (Duh. 8 Reasons Why Wine Is the Best Thing Ever!) Well, new research suggests it may not be the healthy habit you thought it was.

The authors argue that studies done on alcohol and health have design flaws. For example, people who have either cut out or abstained from drinking may have done so due to other health reasons or concerns. So when research compares those people to low-volume or moderate drinkers, the moderate drinkers may appear healthier in general by comparison. Confused? The researchers are basically saying, moderate drinking (you know those random happy hours and late-night glasses of wine) may not be healthy—it just appears that way when compared to non-drinkers who may have other health conditions.

To see if this made a difference in the findings, the researchers analyzed results from 87 studies on alcohol and health. When they controlled for the effect of health issues and other potential defects in the study's design, they found that "moderate drinkers" who consumed up to two drinks a day didn't show any health advantages over non-drinkers. Instead, it was the "occasional drinkers" who had less than one drink a week who seemed to live the longest.

So should you put down your wine glass once and for all?

To play devil's advocate, non-drinkers could also have other health benefits going for them. In the famous Nun Study, the health benefits of the nun lifestyle were explained not only by the nuns' not drinking alcohol but by many other factors too—like the social support and spirituality that can boost mental and physical health.

Another reason to vote yes for wine? It's rich in flavonoids, which help lower inflammation and may promote heart health. Wine may also be even healthier for active women. In a recent study, people who exercised twice a week and drank one glass of wine (red or white) a day over a one-year period improved their cholesterol levels, potentially lowering their heart disease risk. Plus, two glasses of wine before bed may help you lose weight.)

So what's the verdict? Drinking alcohol in limited amounts may not lengthen your life, but it also doesn't shorten it. Whew! Enjoy up to one 5-ounce glass of wine a day or try this Lighter Vegan Chocolate Martini or Skinny Margarita as part of your 80 Twenty lifestyle. Cheers!

 

Christy Brissette, RD

Christy Brissette is one of North America’s top dietitians and a leading nutrition and food communications expert. She is the President of 80 Twenty Nutrition, a nutrition and food media company and private practice. Her mission? To end food confusion and dieting once and for all.  More →

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