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A Little Drinking Cuts Death Risk for Older Adults
Date:8/24/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News)-- While the debate over the possible health benefits of drinking continues to bubble, a new study finds that abstainers and heavy drinkers have a higher mortality risk than moderate drinkers.

"This fascinating, detailed and very meticulous study approached the well-established association between moderate alcohol intake and health benefits with a skeptical eye," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale Medical School, who was not involved in the study.

"In essence, the authors asked, 'What if people who abstain from alcohol have a higher mortality risk than moderate drinkers not because they don't drink, but because they are sicker or are former problem drinkers?'" he said.

Their analysis shows this proposition to be partly true, but not the whole truth, Katz said.

"Indeed, some of the mortality disadvantage seen in nondrinkers is explained by prior problem drinking, or established health problems. But even when all such factors are accounted for, moderate drinking still conferred a net survival advantage," he said.

The report is published in the Aug. 24 online edition of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

For the study, a team led by Charles J. Holahan, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, collected data on 1,824 older adults, aged 55 and 65. They divided the subjects into four groups -- light, moderate and heavy drinkers and abstainers -- and did a 20-year follow-up analysis from the study baseline.

"Although alcohol misuse is linked to many medical conditions, considerable epidemiological evidence indicates that moderate alcohol use is related to reduced total mortality," Holahan said in a statement.

The participants were asked about daily alcohol consumption, problem drinking, and other questions about
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