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For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Date:9/9/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Women who consume moderate amounts of alcohol in middle age are somewhat more likely than teetotalers to be in good physical and mental health in old age, new research finds.

The study doesn't prove that moderate drinking will lead to better health compared to not drinking, since it's possible that other factors could account for the difference. Also, the research doesn't examine the long-term cost of drinking, say, wine instead of milk with dinner.

And study author Dr. Qi Sun doesn't recommend that middle-aged women start drinking if they don't already. Still, "if you are an otherwise healthy person, and you're a long-term light-to-moderate drinker, this may have some benefits," said Sun, an instructor in medicine at Harvard School of Public Health.

Scientists have found evidence that moderate drinking can benefit health, particularly in terms of heart disease, stroke and brain function, Sun said. It's not clear exactly how alcohol benefits health, but Sun said it may have something to do with how alcohol reduces inflammation in the body.

In the new study, published in the September issue of PLoS Medicine , Sun and colleagues examined the medical records of 13,894 nurses who were middle-aged in the 1980s (median age was 58) and lived to be at least 70. The health of the women was updated through the decades, and the study excluded heavy drinkers or those with possible alcohol problems.

The researchers then focused on 1,491 women (11 percent) who had aged successfully, meaning they didn't suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes or report physical or mental limitations in old age. They compared them to the other women and tried to determine whether those who drank in midlife -- they tended to drink wine -- did any better health-wise.

Of those who had no major health problems in old age, only 22 percent were n
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