I often talk about the many health benefits of consuming alcohol in moderation—including a lower risk of developing dementia, depression, heart disease, and even Type II diabetes.
But some of the nannies in mainstream medicine just can’t seem to accept the science on moderate drinking. Because 9 percent of those who consume alcohol do so to excess, they want to forbid it completely…for everyone. Even the 91 percent who safely and responsibly enjoy its many health benefits!
So, the nannies continue to concoct even more ridiculous reasons why you should stop drinking completely. And most recently, a group of researchers has even tried to rewrite the science on how moderate drinking improves cognitive and physical function.
But I’m simply not buying it. And I’ll tell you exactly why in a moment.
First, let’s back up…
The many known health benefits of moderate drinking
First and foremost, we have known for at least three decades that moderate alcohol consumption protects against heart disease—which is still the leading cause of death here in the U.S. It’s also a key part of the healthy, balanced Mediterranean diet, which is good for all aspects for your health.
Plus, in recent years, some scientists have zeroed in specifically on red wine (or an ingredient in red wine) to figure out exactly how drinking benefits heart health. But studies show that moderate consumption of ANY type of alcohol confers benefits for cardiovascular health.
Personally, I’ve always thought alcohol works to prevent heart disease because it reduces stress—the No. 1 silent killer behind high blood pressure, heart disease, metabolic disorders, and even cancer.
Of course, moderate drinking also improves circulation, which delivers much-needed oxygen and nutrients around the body…including to your brain cells. This mechanism probably explains why older adults who drink have better brain function. In fact, moderate drinkers are much more likely to live to age 85 without dementia than teetotalers!
Likewise, there is also a strong link between alcohol consumption and a lower risk of depression. In fact, studies show that moderate alcohol consumption improves mood and works better than a fast-acting antidepressant. (You can learn more about this important research in the December 2019 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter [“Your step-by-step guide to a happier, healthier holiday season”]. If you’re not yet a subscriber, become one today!)
And that point brings me back to the new study I mentioned at the beginning of this Dispatch…
New study misses the forest for the trees
For this new study, researchers analyzed data on health and lifestyle habits (including drinking habits) for about 200,000 adults over the age of 50. And they came away with two major findings…
First, as previous studies had shown, moderate drinkers had lower depression rates than teetotalers.
The second finding relates to the participants’ functional ability. In other words, how well they completed routine, daily tasks—such as doing the laundry or paying the bills. And once again, it turns out that the moderate drinkers had more functional ability than teetotalers.
Now, here’s where things got interesting…
The researchers tried to explain away their own results. They said the lower depression rates among moderate drinkers related indirectly to greater social interaction. Meaning we can’t credit drinking for the improvements in mood. Rather, the improvements in mood occurred because the drinkers were more social than teetotalers.
And they made the same claim about function ability! They said the drinkers had better functional ability because drinking makes them more social.
Now, certainly, spending time with family and friends does benefit your mood—apart from drinking. In fact, I have suggested before that when you abstain at a social gathering where others are drinking, your mood still gets a boost.
However, the social associations of drinking do not negate the science showing the directly beneficial physiological and biochemical effects of alcohol on the brain. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, many previously published studies show that moderate alcohol consumption directly benefits cognitive function, memory, and mood in older adults.
So, instead of spouting their sideways theories, maybe the researchers should have claimed this instead…
Perhaps moderate alcohol intake improves brain and physical function, which leads people to engage in more social activity…rather than retreat into themselves!
Furthermore, the claim that social interaction is what caused drinkers to retain better physical function doesn’t explain it any better.
In the end, their conclusions from their study just miss the mark—plain and simple. Especially when you consider the dozens of strong studies over the past three decades that consistently show drinking moderately, especially as you get older, improves your mood, brain function, and your overall health.
So go ahead and enjoy a glass or two of wine, beer, or spirits with dinner. And better yet, enjoy it with friends or family! Your mind and your body will benefit.
“The Benefit of Moderate Alcohol Use on Mood and Functional Ability in Later Life: Due to Beers or Frequent Cheers?” Gerontologist, 2020; 60 (1):80-88. doi.org:10.1093/geront/gny129.