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Drinking Alcohol May Extend Your Life 548

Adolytsi writes "MSNBC has an interesting article on an Italian study on alcoholism. While the obvious notion of overconsumption of alcohol being detrimental to one's health is supported, apparently drinking it in moderation can actually extend your lifespan. A study on over 1 million drinkers and 94,000 deaths yielded the results: "According to the data, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol — up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women — reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent, the team reports in the Archives of Internal Medicine. However, "things radically change" when consumption goes beyond these levels, study leader Dr. Augusto Di Castelnuovo, from Catholic University of Campobasso, said in a statement. Men who have more than four drinks per day and women who have more than two drinks per day not only lose the protection that alcohol affords, but they increase their risk of death, the data indicates.""
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Drinking Alcohol May Extend Your Life

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  • Define "drink" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neimon ( 713907 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:13PM (#17317526)
    Four tumblers of middle-quality scotch?
  • Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kelz ( 611260 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:13PM (#17317530)
    I still find it interesting that at 18 you're allowed join the military and die but you're not allowed to drink alcohol.
  • Can't drink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Terminal Saint ( 668751 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:15PM (#17317558)
    I wondered if they remembered to take into account people who don't drink because of pre-existing health conditions that result in shorter life spans. That's a variable they tend to forget in these studies...
  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:18PM (#17317624)
    Clearly, from this study, if you're having 4 drinks a week, you DO have a drinking problem. Specifically, your problem is you aren't drinking enough.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HappySqurriel ( 1010623 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:21PM (#17317690)
    I still find it interesting that at 18 you're allowed join the military and die but you're not allowed to drink alcohol. ... in the United States of America

    Anyways, the problem with the age limit on alcohol consumption is that it gives teens/young adults the impression that drinking excessively is a mature thing to do; most people I have met who have drank from a young age tend to see excessive drinking in a completely different light than those who get to drink when they're 18-21.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:22PM (#17317714) Homepage Journal
    Where's the ACLU when they could actually be doing something helpful.

    There's no reason why 21 should be the drinking age when 18 is the age of majority.

    People always spout some bullshit about responsibility, but the studies show that people starting to drink at 21 is more harmful than people drinking earlier. When people are younger, they have more parental supervision. They learn how to drink responsibly. When someone is 21 and out on their own, they have no parents to answer to and can do pretty much what they want.

  • breaking news! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:22PM (#17317720)
    This is only the 10,000th study done (this year) on this subject stating some good can come from drinking in moderation!
  • by Kevster ( 102318 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:25PM (#17317770)
    IIRC, that's four drinks every day, but only if you drink with your meals (presumably lunch and supper). Drinking outside of mealtime (bar hopping, happy hour after work, etc.) has a negative effect.
  • Re:Can't drink (Score:2, Insightful)

    by booyabazooka ( 833351 ) <> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:25PM (#17317772)
    Also consider who can afford to drink regularly (and afford healthcare)... Or perhaps the simple confound that people who drink moderately tend to also take other things in moderation (cholesterol, smoking, etc.)
  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:25PM (#17317774) Journal
    What do you drink, Jack Daniels by the pint? Most people I know, even lightweights, can handle an aperitif or two, a couple of glasses of wine with a meal, maybe a brandy or whisky after, without being particularly drunk. So I guess it depends what you count as one drink, and how fast you're chucking them down.
  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:26PM (#17317792)
    Well, that would be *excellent*, I love a glass of wine or three a day. A beer or two on a hot day is just heavenly.

    But unfortunately the correlation may not imply causation. i.e. people who live longer drink more, but not vice-versa.

    • Maybe really sick people don't drink as much.
    • Maybe the people that have four drinks a day have to be quite healthy to keep that up day after day after day.
    • Maybe drinking keeps them off the streets, or out of other dangerous places.
    • Maybe all the 4-drink-a-day people have died already and were not around for a survey.

    Lotsa possible ways to spoil things.

  • Re:Legal age (Score:3, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:27PM (#17317814)
    Drinking is a privileged. Dying is a right. Either way, you still get taxed.
  • Stats 101... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:30PM (#17317880)
    Correlation does not imply causation. All we can say is that "people who drink a bit of alcohol tend to live longer," not that alcohol prolongs their lives. It could be that these individuals take the time to socialize and de-stress, which causes them to live longer. Or perhaps there are financial factors at play: someone who can afford to drink three or four bottles of wine a week is not likely to be living in abject poverty. Of course, it could also be that anti-oxidant properties of the beverages have a positive effect as well.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:3, Insightful)

    by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:42PM (#17318076)
    Well, in certain countries, you're allowed to have (consent) sex at the tender age of 16, but you're not allowed to smoke/drink until you are 18, and not allowed to gamble until 21.

    The one that gets me is that here in the UK (and probably many other places too), you can have sex at 16, but you have to be 18 to rent a video of OTHER PEOPLE having sex.
  • Re:Makes me happy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:46PM (#17318136)
    You're probably not far off. I know some wines have health benefits, but I'm guessing the biggest benefit from moderate drinking is that the drinker is more relaxed: stress is certainly no friend to health.
  • by o'reor ( 581921 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:53PM (#17318264) Journal
    A few studies mentioned in this Wikipedia page [] tend to demonstrate that there could be a benefit in drinking red wine because of polyphenols []. These studies have been wildly popular on "zis side of ze pond" particularly among wine traders and farmers. And doctors, too. My father, who has a heart disease, has been prescribed at least half a glass of red wine a day (which pisses him off, because he hates red wine !).

    Finding out who paid for these studies and the publicizing of their results, is another story... With alcohol and wine lobbies strongly rooted in the french political life, and recently getting into academic funding, you should always follow the money before you make your mind about these studies...

  • Re:Legal age (Score:2, Insightful)

    by modecx ( 130548 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:56PM (#17318316)
    Well, that's basically what the Brits did with their sailors, and they had one of the most powerful fleets anywhere...
  • Joyful life... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neax ( 961176 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:59PM (#17318370)

    anything that we enjoy in moderation is good for us. I think that we live longer if we have fun and enjoy ourselves.

    Having a healthy outlook on life and enjoying good food, good drink and good times with others all help to contribute to this, whether it is over a drink, a meal or doing some activity; it does not really matter. The objective is to have a sense of achievement in our work and enjoy time with friends and family.

    I imagine that drowning your daily woes with a lonely depressed drink everyday would actually shorten your life. However, sitting out in the sun enjoying a glass of wine or a beer with your wife or your friends and just generally relaxing, enjoying life will help you live longer.

    My math says: Hard work + Fun (both in moderation...this is important)= Decrease stress = Joyful life = Live longer

  • by descil ( 119554 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [netaret]> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @06:13PM (#17318580)
    Slashdot is such a troll. *sighs*

    I guarantee you this has nothing to do with any "medical benefits" of alcohol, and everything to do with who knows when to stop drinking and who doesn't.

    Think about it. You've had your fourth beer, you're feeling good, what do you do? Go for more pleasure at the risk of being sick, or stop where you're at?

    If you're the kind of person who will keep going, you're more likely to drive too fast off a cliff, skydive every weekend, do as many kinds of drugs as you can find, put yourself into fights, ... whereas if you stop at that 4th beer, it shows some measure of self-control.

    Self-control will keep you alive a lot better than 4 beers a day. I promise.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by notwrong ( 620413 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:20PM (#17319482)

    To make light of those that serve with honor is the greatest abuse of the freedoms you enjoy as a result of thier sacrifice.

    How does it count as "freedom" if you restrict the the things that people are allowed to make light of?

  • Re:Legal age (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:32PM (#17319602)
    To make light of those that serve with honor is the greatest abuse of the freedoms you enjoy as a result of thier sacrifice.

    I don't usually reply to trolls, but you seem to be sincere. Notwithstanding your freedom to express any idiotic opinion you like, I'd suggest you check the definition of the word "freedom".

  • by banerjek ( 1040522 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:33PM (#17319618) Homepage

    ...drinking a moderate amount of alcohol -- up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women -- reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent...
    Yet we are told that 100% of humans eventually die from something. If the risk of every cause of death (which by definition must include alcohol related ones) is reduced by 18%, that difference must go somewhere.

    Must be reincarnation......

  • Re:Legal age (Score:2, Insightful)

    by snarkth ( 1002832 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @08:27PM (#17320140)
    While I appreciate your sense of loyalty, I think you should lighten up some. Self-deprecating humor is part of what separates a fanatic from someone with wisdom, and can make an intolerable situation a whole helluva lot more tolerable.

      In other words, "If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined up."

  • Re:Legal age (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mad Marlin ( 96929 ) <> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:01PM (#17320412) Homepage
    Port is candy goodness.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @10:17PM (#17321002) Homepage

    A big fuck you to whomever modded this as funny. There is nothing funny about those that lose thier lives in service of thier country. The current world circumstances are especially sad when a command in chief is as clueless as the idiot in the White House. As a veteran, it brings tears to my eyes when I hear about the lose of life in Iraq. To make light of those that serve with honor is the greatest abuse of the freedoms you enjoy as a result of thier sacrifice.
    WTF are you talking about? There's nothing wrong with the humor there. It's not insulting to people in uniform. You need to chill, man. Not long ago I came back from 2 years in Afghanistan with the good ol' US Army. I can't say how it might affect casualties, but I can assure you that a couple drinks a day there would definitely have improved my morale.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gryle ( 933382 ) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:25PM (#17321480)
    A lot of the fear is scaremongering by the Mothers/Students Against Drunk Driving organizations. At my high school these groups did some kind of presentation at least once a semester. Instead of teaching that alcohol needs to be consumed responsibly, they preached that all alcohol is bad and will make you into some kind of monster if you come within 5 feet of it. They're responsible for most of the legislations that raised the legal drinking ages.
  • by Jehosephat2k ( 562701 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:44AM (#17322210)
    I think the moral is either: Don't drink the punch, or Let sleeping geeks lie.

    Or lock your door.
  • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adrianmonk ( 890071 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:47AM (#17322220)
    I think the US is the only country in the world with such a strict view on drinking, and it does not help. There is no less drinking amongst the youth in the US as in europe, and I just cannot understand where this phobia comes from.

    I'll assume that you don't know the answer to that since you're apparently not from the US and thus probably didn't have to take multiple years of US History in school at every level. Basically, 500 years ago, Europe wasn't so hot in the religious freedom department. So all the various groups that believed slightly differently (and I really mean only slightly differently in the grand scheme of things -- we are talking about 100 different flavors of Christianity here) couldn't practice freely, or at least not as freely as they wanted to. Consequences ranged from annoyance level to death. So there was all this land over here in the Americas, and not a hell of a lot of established bureaucracy to regulate it, and about a zillion separate groups decided, "Hey, let's go over there where we can do what we please, and we'll build a new, ideal society! We've thought about this a lot, and we think we have the correct interpretation of the Bible and that nobody else does, so once we run things according to the real Godly principles we've discovered, everything will be totally schweet and kick ass." So they did. Net result? Not only were the real religious zealots (the ones who not only took religion seriously, but so seriously that the established variation of Christianity wasn't good enough) siphoned out of Europe, but they got together and established entire (small) societies based on fairly extreme principles. So they were extreme to start with, and then they put themselves in a situation that encouraged extremeness.

    Now, all of these Utopian religious societies really didn't last. As Bruce Cockburn said, "Let's hear a laugh for the man of the world / Who thinks he can make things work / Tried to build a New Jerusalem / And ended up with New York." However, although the societies didn't work and people ended up going more mainstream, they still had a major, lasting effect, because American life continued to be pretty seriously religious even after the initial influx of religiously-motivated colonizers. First there was The Great Awakening, basically a series of revivals which swept the nation and pretty much permanently altered society. It was, if I remember right, a global event, but it pretty much centered on the US. As if that wasn't enough, there was a Second Great Awakening 100-ish years later.

    The net result of it these days is that American Christianity is somewhat of its separate thing, in the same sense that Catholicism is different from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Obviously, they all basically believe in the same things, but they don't think about it in just the same way. For example, American Christianity has tended to have a strong current of evangelicalism. It also has tended to be a little bit anti-intellectual, which has largely as a result of a reaction against The Enlightenment.

    So yeah, it's related to Prohibition. But only in the sense that both are part of a much larger trend. I have in my desk drawer a pencil with an American flag design on it and the words "LOYAL TEMPERANCE LEGION / We Stand for Total Abstinence". I got it from my grandmother's house, and I believe my grandparents got it from my grandfather's mother, who was very active in the temperance movement. It was at one time a very mainstream thing to do. And it's not completely nonexistent either -- they, in fact, still exist and have a web site [].

    So basically, Puritanism is still alive and well in the culture in the US. There are plenty of people with more moderate views, but there is a certain balance, and both have influence.

  • Re:Legal age (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rohan972 ( 880586 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @04:53AM (#17322894)
    So basically, Puritanism is still alive and well in the culture in the US. There are plenty of people with more moderate views, but there is a certain balance, and both have influence.

    I heard one pastor say "Jesus turned water into wine, and evangelical christians have been trying to turn it back ever since."

    However, I do want to comment on your use of the word "moderate" (presumably compared to "extreme" Puritanism) refering apparently to those whose christianity allows for drinking alcohol:

    Jesus turned water into wine, the apostle Paul recommended to Timothy to drink wine for health reasons (I Timothy 5:23). So since I take this literally and conclude that to forbid wine is anti-christianity, aren't I being extreme, and teetotalers being moderate (allowing for new interpretations to affect doctrine). I'm certainly not trying to be moderate in my beliefs, I just find it impossible to reconcile Jesus miraculous production of wine with a prohibition on alcohol.
  • by OriginalArlen ( 726444 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @06:49AM (#17323330)

    unfortunately the correlation may not imply causation. i.e. people who live longer drink more, but not vice-versa.
    You are correct, Sir. Clearly, further research is indicated. Cheers! :)
  • by daveewart ( 66895 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @08:58AM (#17323784)

    One thing it's always important to consider when looking at the health consequences of a human-controllable factor such as drinking alcohol is: some people may make a decision about how much alcohol to drink and this decision is based on a reason related to their current health.

    For example, those who are already unwell or have a chronic condition may well decide to avoid alcohol completely, or have this recommended to them by their doctors. This means that the future outcomes recorded for "those who do not drink, or who drink very little" can be biased to some extent by the fact that they are already at a higher risk of disease or death. Getting this sort of bias measured is incredibly difficult.

    If this happens, then you get a mortality relationship which seems to be telling you: drinking almost nothing has a modest mortality rate (because it includes all those who have been avoid alcohol); a small amount of alcohol, consumed by largely health-conscious people leads to a lower mortality rate; then higher levels of alcohol lead to higher mortality rates. At face value, this suggests that "drinking a small amount of alcohol is good for you". While this may be true, you have to be very careful in interpreting the results.

    Basically, this boils down to the difference between: some people get ill or die because they drink a lot, and some people drink very little because they are already ill.

  • by thedbtree ( 935701 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @11:15AM (#17324956)
    I don't have any statistics to back this up so this might be bogus but one thought came to mind was automobile accidents.

    For several years I worked for an automobile towing company which was licensed to do all the towing for the area towns. Some of the more gruesome car accidents that involved a driver under the influence of alcohol walked away without a scratch on them, while other horrendous accidents with sober drivers either lead to a fatality or some serious injuries.

    The accident scenes were disgusting and when the officer would tell me the driver walked away from it because they were drunk, I was almost in shock. I guess the alcohol loosens up your body/muscles or slows your reaction time and you sort of bend with the accident rather than stiffen up for impact and do more damage to yourself.

    Of course-- there would be plenty less accidents all together without drunk drivers on the roads. And there are PLENTY of drunk driving accidents in which the driver and passengers are all instantly killed-- hopefully not taking innocent sober drivers with them.

    I don't really know where I'm going with this post-- because there are too many variables to this theory and I don't have any statistics, but I just thought I'd share my personal observations.

    Drunks at the wheel that hit things have a chance of living and sober people in that same accident could die or get seriously injured. I've seen it quite a few times and it still amazes me.
  • As a homebrewer... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by raddan ( 519638 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @02:33PM (#17327390)
    The stuff you mention is all anecdotal. I am not a chemist (but I am a homebrewer), and here's what I understand to be the difference between various alcoholic beverages. In the form that humans consume, there are basically two types of alcohol: ethyl and methyl. Yeast produce both, with ethyl alcohol in the greater quantity. Both forms of alchol are 'poisonous', but of the two ethyl is definitely preferable. Methyl breaks down to formaldehyde in your liver, which, among many nasty things, will cause you to go blind. In normal fermented beverages-- i.e., ones that have not been subject to distillation-- the quantity of methyl alcohol is a non-issue. Distilled beverages need to have the additional step of removing the methyl alcohol (or by engineering the distillation process so that methyl alcohol is not captured).

    There are basically two types of yeast (a fungus) that are responsible for all alcohol that we drink: ale yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), and lager yeasts (Saccharomyces pastorianus). Ale yeasts ferment at a higher temperature range than do lager yeasts. Lager yeasts are also capable of breaking down dextrose, which is a type of sugar that contributes 'mouthfeel' (like 'fullness') to a beverage. This is why lagers tend to be lighter in body than ales. Various strains exists among these two types that produce a variety of esters, fusel alcohols, sulphur compounds, and so on, but in general these byproducts are kept to a minimum as they produce a whole variety of 'off flavors'-- fusels in particular make something taste 'hot' or 'spicy'.

    Anyhow-- the point being that the real difference between your choices for alcoholic beverages are: 1) alcoholic content (by weight/volume) and 2) the other kinds of things that are mixed in with those alcohols, (eg., sugars, tannins, and so on). A strong drink (like wine as compared to a typical beer) affects you differently because there's more alcohol. Tannins also tend to make that hangover last a bit longer, although it should be said that hangovers are mostly caused by dehydration and/or vitamin B deficiency (vitamin B is utilized in alcohol metabolization).

    Yeast, by itself, has little or nothing to do with those other compounds. They're just there because they existed in the yeast's food (like grapes, barley, rice, etc), and the yeast had nothing to do with them, so they stuck around. Other organisms (molds, bacteria, and other 'wild yeasts') may affect them somewhat, but modern breweries (Belgians excepted) go to great lengths to make sure that these contaminants do not enter the product, as they make quality control extremely difficult.

    No, the point of these studies really is to try and isolate the benefits of consuming alcohol-- ethyl alcohol. Not the other things. We already know that, e.g., grapes are good for you, and if you really want a good source of antioxidants, try eating fresh fruits and veggies.
  • hooray (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Tuffsnake ( 767507 ) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @05:14PM (#17329782)
    Now drinking 4 beers a day makes me health conscious and not an alcoholic!!

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