Drinking Alcohol and Handgrip Strength: Sarcopenia

Handgrip strength is important because it’s a useful indicator of sarcopenia. This is a progressive and general loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. It often causes functional impairment, falls, disability, loss of autonomy, poor quality of life, and death. Is there a relationship between drinking alcohol and handgrip strength?

A Study of Alcohol and Handgrip Strength

alcohol and strengthResearchers examined drinking alcohol and handgrip strength. To do so they studied 1,719 Japanese men and women 70 years of age. They calculated alcohol consumption per day using the Japanese alcohol unit. It equals 22.9 grams of alcohol or 1.6 U.S. standard drinks. Learn more about standard drinks.

Researchers categorized people into several groups. There were abstainers, occasional drinkers, daily light drinkers, and daily moderate drinkers. The daily light drinkers had 1.6 to 3.2 U.S. standard drinks daily. Daily moderate drinkers had from 3.2 to 4.8 US standard drinks each day.

US guidelines consider moderate drinking to be up to one standard drink per day for women. It’s up to two drinks for men. So these researchers considered over three drinks to almost five drinks per day to be moderate. And for women as well. This shows that in many societies our conception of moderate drinking is very, very low.

Handgrip strength increased greatly with more daily drinking. This was true for both men and women.1

These findings are consistent with other research. The research shows that drinking is linked with better health and longer life. That’s compared to non-drinking.

Risk factors for sarcopenia include age, gender, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition. The latter includes inadequate intake of energy, protein, and vitamin D. Other risk factors may be heart failure, smoking tobacco, and inflammation.

Probably contributing to sarcopenia are these factors.

    • Reduced ability to synthesize protein.
    • Decreased growth hormone levels.
    • Fewer motor nerve cells.

Sarcopenia causes a decrease in resting metabolic rate. This leads to higher insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and higher cholesterol. Of course, it also leads to weight gain.

Clearly, slowing the progression of sarcopenia is desirable. And both individually and societally. It appears that drinking alcohol reduces this problem.

Resources: Sarcopenia

    1. Kawamoto, R. et al. Alcohol Consumption is Positively Associated with Strength of Handgrip Among Japanese.  Int J Geron.