Moderate Alcohol Drinking, Senility, and Longevity

Most people want to live a long life free of senility or cognitive impairment. Are moderate alcohol drinking, senility, and longevity related? Does drinking moderately help people live longer and without senility?

This is an important question both for individuals and society. Advances in public health and medicine have led to large increases in longevity. And they continue to do so. The world population over age 85 may grow 350% by 2050. Therefore, we need to identify factors that can contribute to healthy longevity.

This would be beneficial in two ways. First, it would improve the quality of life among older people. Second, it would reduce the financial burden of poor health on society.

Research shows that, in comparison to both abstainers and heavy drinkers, moderate drinkers tend to live longer. It also shows that, in such comparisons, moderate drinkers tend to have better cognitive ability in later life. So it’s reasonable to hypothesize that moderate drinkers might also have both less senility and longer life.

I. Study of Drinking, Senility, and Longevity

Researchers tested this hypothesis about drinking, senility, and longevity. To do so, they used data from the Rancho Bernardo Study. It’s an ongoing cohort study established between 1972 and 1974.

drinking, senility, and longevityAt that time 6,339 (or 82%) of residents aged 30 and older in Rancho Bernardo agreed to participate. Rancho Bernardo is a suburb of San Diego, California. The main goal of the Rancho Bernardo Study is to assess heart disease risk factors. Yet much of the facts collected over the decades is useful for other medical research. That includes the research reported here.

In 1984–87, 82% of the surviving participants (numbering  2,479) gave detailed facts about their drinking. Researchers assessed cognitive function in 1988-92 and about every four years thereafter. The researcherss followed people through the end of 2013. Cognitive function was first assessed in 1988–92 and about every four years thereafter.

Researchers controlled or adjusted for a very large number of potentially confounding factors. These included many lifestyle and health factors. Researchers controlled gender, age, smoking, exercise, education, marital status, self-perceived health, metabolic syndrome, body mass index, and waist-hip ratio. They considered the number of co-morbidities and meds.

Of course they included the history of CVD, liver disease, stroke, diabetes, TIA, cancer, hypertension, and depression. And they controlled for the results of blood tests such as HDL-C, LDL-C, Triglycerides, SBP, DBP, GGT, AST, and ALT.

In sum, the researchers were able to study alcohol drinking, senility, and longevity among 1,344 community-dwelling older adults.

II. Results

drinking, senility, and longevityIn comparison to nondrinkers, moderate and heavy drinkers both had greater chance of living to age 85 without cognitive impairment. In fact, they had double the chance. In addition, frequent drinkers had an even better chance of reaching that desirable status.

Also, it’s very important that these links remained after adjustment for the many factors, among others, listed above. Thus, the results can’t be “explained away” with other explanations.

III. Source

Richard, E., et al. Alcohol intake and cognitively healthy longevity in community-dwelling adults. The Rancho Bernardo Study. J Alzheimers Dis, 2017, 59(3), 803-814. This research was federally funded.

IV. Resources on Drinking, Senility, and Longevity

Readings (Popular)

Readings (Scientific)


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