The health benefits of alcohol change with age...

We know that significant research has concluded that alcohol, the substance also linked to hart disease, obesity and depression and anxiety has some interesting health benefits relating to antioxidant boosts, longevity and the immune system. But, new research has found that these benefits really do depend on what age you are.

According to the research published by BMJ, any health benefits from alcohol may be limited to women aged 65 and over – and even then may have been exaggerated by existing studies.

Using interview data from Health Survey for England 1998-2008 linked to national mortality data, samples of 18,368 and 34,523 adults were analysed by sex and age group (50-64 years and 65 years and over). Participants were interviewed about their average weekly alcohol consumption and use on the heaviest drinking day of the week. Results were adjusted for a range of personal, socioeconomic, and lifestyle factors.

Compared with never drinkers, protective associations were largely limited to men aged 50-64 years who reported consuming 15-20 units on average per week or 0.1-1.5 units on the heaviest day, and to women aged 65 and over who reported consuming 10 units or less on average per week and at all levels of heaviest day use.

Little to no protection was found in other age-sex groups, regardless of consumption level, say the authors. The authors also stress that protective associations “may be explained by selection biases”.

Ad. Article continues below.

They conclude that one possibility is that this study “may have better isolated the true effect of alcohol consumption on mortality” and add that their results do not support the introduction of age specific recommended alcohol limits for persons aged 65 years and over.

In a linked editorial, Professor Mike Daube from Curtin University in Australia, welcomes this study as part of a growing body of evidence that alcohol intake is unlikely to offer any health benefits.

He argues that new evidence or health claims, “should be treated with great caution” and health professionals should discourage alcohol intake, even at low levels, for health benefits. Health advice should come only from health authorities, he adds, and that the alcohol industry “should remove misleading references to health benefits from their information materials.”

So next time you pick up that glass of wine and use the excuse, “Oh this will fight my free radicals” perhaps find another reason!

Tell us, how often do you drink?