While several studies have highlighted the health risks associated with alcohol consumption, a new study conducted by researchers from Monash University found that there may be some benefits. According to their findings, moderate drinking may come with some protective health benefits for older consumers.
“Excess alcohol consumption is a leading contributor to the global burden of disease and a major risk factor for mortality. Yet, prior studies suggested that moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events,” the researchers explained.
“However, this evidence is based on data from younger individuals, and confirmation in older adults is lacking. Thus, we sought to investigate the risk of CVD events and all-cause mortality associated with alcohol consumption in initially healthy, older individuals.”
How alcohol impacts health
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 18,000 older adults enrolled in the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) study. Participants reported on their daily alcohol consumption, and the researchers followed up with medical exams to determine the long-term health outcomes.
The researchers divided the participants into five groups depending on how much they drank per week: zero drinks per week, 0-3.5 drinks per week, 3.5-7 drinks per week, 7-10 drinks per week, and more than 10 drinks per week. Most of the participants consumed between 3.5 and seven drinks per week; however, more than 18% drank no alcohol at all.
In terms of health outcomes, drinking was linked with some protective benefits. Participants who consumed at least 3.5 drinks per week were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than participants who didn’t drink at all. The study also showed that moderate drinkers -- those who had between 3.5 and seven drinks per week -- had a lower overall mortality risk than non-drinkers.
While these findings point to the protective health benefits linked with moderate drinking, the researchers also noted that none of the participants had any significant health risks, including any history of cardiovascular disease. However, moving forward, they hope to do more work in this area to better understand how alcohol impacts consumers’ health long-term.