Study Shows Moderate Alcohol Consumption Is OK

A study published on July 19 in the research journal Health Affairs has promising implications for those who enjoy drinking alcohol but still try to maintain healthy habits. Now, it seems the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

You can drink and still live a long, long time.

The study surveyed a large population of adults aged 50 or older and assessed their health habits compared with longevity and disease outcomes. Essentially, they concluded that the group with the best health outcomes lived an average of seven years longer than the average American population. The health habits of this group were simple: They maintained a healthy weight, they refrained from smoking cigarettes, and they drank alcohol in moderation.

Key words: in moderation.

The study holds the promising implication that alcohol consumption is a perfectly healthy and reasonable habit to include in a healthy lifestyle. This really shouldn't be all that surprising. A majority of residents of the world's healthiest countries, such as France, Switzerland, and Sweden, drink moderately; in fact, many of the countries' beverage industries manufacture a large amount of high-quality alcohol.

Yet Americans have historically had a difficult time maintaining a moderate level of consumption. Instead, they attempt to limit and control the alcohol they indulge in. This deprivation mindset isn't new: It's the same mindset that results in dieters "falling off the wagon" time after time, bingeing on cookies and junk after imposing restrictions.

Is the secret to healthful drinking just allowing yourself to have a few without feeling guilty? It seems so.

The new study specifically selected moderate drinkers for the healthy group, even over those who didn't drink at all. One of the study's authors, Dr. Neil Mehta, a professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan, told Wine Spectator that this was based on prevailing research. "What we've found — what other studies have shown — is that individuals who drink moderately tend to have better outcomes compared to those who completely abstain from alcohol and to those who drink very heavily," Mehta explained.

While science continues to explore the precise effects of alcohol consumption on human health, we'll keep on enjoying our wine.