Drinking wine can help you live to more than 90 years! Wouldn’t it be great to live forever? Well, maybe not forever, but at least long enough to watch your grandchildren grow up, or maybe even some great-grandchildren. Not many people are lucky enough for that to happen, but recently, more and more people are adding more candles to their birthday cakes. So why do we live longer than the generations before us? The answer is not as simple as black or white, or should we say red or white? A glass of wine may be the answer.

Live longer with a glass of wine?

While it is true that we have made great leaps in medicine that has done a lot to keep us healthy and live longer, that is not the only thing that helps us continue.

So what is the secret to living longer? The study, appropriately named Study 90+ , began in 2003 with the hope of studying the oldest of the old who is becoming the fastest growing age group in the world. The initial study participants were part of another study called The Leisure World Cohort Study (LWCS) that began in 1981. Leisure World was a large retirement community in Orange County, California, and all 14,000 participants received surveys that they completed by mail.

Using information from the 14,000 LWCS participants, Study 90+ researchers were able to ask, ‘What allows people to live to age 90 and beyond?’

The objectives of the study were to:

  • Determine the factors associated with longevity
  • Examine the epidemiology of dementia in the older age
  • To examine rates of cognitive and functional decline in the elderly
  • Examine the pathological clinical correlations in the oldest of age
  • Determination of modifiable risk factors for mortality and dementia

Those who participate in the study are visited twice a year for neurological and neurophysiological tests. Researchers at the Clinic for Research and Education on Aging , located in Laguna Woods, California, gathered information on diet, activities that participants performed on a daily basis, their medical history, medications, and other lifestyle-related factors.

One of the main findings the researchers uncovered was that those who drank a moderate amount of alcohol lived longer than those who abstained. He also noticed that moderate coffee drinkers lived longer too, but that’s not so much fun.

By the glass or by the bottle?

Ok, so drinking wine can help you live longer, but that doesn’t mean you should start finishing the bottles with dinner. The key here is moderation, because too much of everything can be a bad thing. If you’re not sure how much alcohol counts as moderation, according to the Mayo Clinic for Healthy Adult Women and Men Over 65, moderation is a drink. For men under 65, it’s two drinks. But these should not be large; a standard drink is 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits.

Benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation

Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have some health benefits, including:

  • Lower risk of developing or dying from heart disease
  • Lower chances of ischemic stroke
  • Possible reduced risk of diabetes

So enjoy a glass of wine with dinner once in a while, or have a beer after a long day at work. Just be sure not to overdo it, because excessive alcohol consumption can lead to very serious health problems.

Excessive alcohol consumption has unfortunately become the norm, even though it is known to be dangerous to our health. So how can alcohol help us live longer if it is harming us? Well, part of the answer is moderation, but also exercise.

Exercise offsets the negative effects of alcohol

A study that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at how exercise can offset the negative effects of unsafe drinking. The study’s lead author, Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis, and his colleagues analyzed data collected from the UK and Scottish health surveys and then separated their 36,370 participants, all over the age of 40, into 3 groups.

The groups were divided into those who were not very active, those who received a moderate amount of exercise, and those who exercised more. He then analyzed the amount of alcohol that people in each group were consuming.

Calculating 5,735 total deaths during an average follow-up period of nearly 10 years per person, the researchers found that, compared with lifelong abstinence from alcohol, drinking at dangerous levels was associated with an increased risk of death from all causes . They also found that the more drinks there were in a week, the higher the risk of death from cancer.

But when they took into account the recommended amount of weekly exercise for adults (150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity), they found that it “seemed to completely eliminate” the increased risk of cancer deaths from alcohol. Exercise also offset the risk of alcohol-related mortality from any cause.

Since Stamatakis’s study was only observational, it can only imply a relationship between exercise, alcohol consumption, and health benefits. But it does show how important being physically active is to our health.

One thing’s for sure, next time you fancy a glass of wine, consider going for a run first.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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