Alcohol May Increase Life Expectancy, Reduce Risk Of Dementia
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on Monday. There weren’t many surprises in its recommendations to reduce fat and salt, eat whole grains, and cut the overall amount we eat.
But here’s one thing that might surprise you. Chapter Three, titled “Foods and Food Components to Reduce,” deals with alcohol. The Guidelines, created by America’s leading health researchers, state: “Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation (up to two drinks daily). Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age.”
What was that again?
Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age? You mean, alcohol is associated with living and remaining mentally alert longer?
Isn’t this news to most Americans? The Guidelines rush to list all the detriments of excessive drinking. They also say no one should begin drinking moderately for their health, since alcohol has so many negative effects.
But aren’t most “middle-aged and older” Americans drinking too little in terms of these Guidelines? The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2009) says that only 55% of 50-year-olds have had a drink in the past month. Half of people 60-64 and just 40% of those 65 and older (a group in which I proudly count myself) have done so.
These percentages surely drop drastically when considering daily drinking. In any case, since the figure for “middle-aged and older” Americans who drink even as much as once a month hovers around a half, aren’t too few Americans benefitting from alcohol?
So it would seem and, once again, we’re led to ask the question — Alcohol, is there anything it can’t do?