It’s one of those medical anomalies that nobody can really explain: Longitudinal studies have consistently shown that people who don’t consume any alcohol at all tend to die before people who do. At first glance, this makes little sense. Why would ingesting a psychoactive toxin that increases our risk of cancer, dementia and liver disease lengthen our life span?
Well, the anomaly has just gotten more anomalous: A new study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, followed 1,824 participants between the ages of 55 and 65. Once again, the researchers found that abstaining from alcohol increases the risk of dying, even when you exclude former alcoholics who have now quit. (The thinking is that ex-drinkers might distort the data, since they’ve already pickled their organs.) While 69 percent of the abstainers died during the 20-year time span of the study, only 41 percent of moderate drinkers passed away. (Moderate drinkers were also 23 percent less likely to die than light drinkers.) But here’s the really weird data point: Heavy drinkers also live longer than abstainers. (Only 61 percent of heavy drinkers died during the study.) In other words, consuming disturbingly large amounts of alcohol seems to be better than drinking none at all.
We live in a reductionist age, in which every longitudinal effect is explained away at the most fundamental possible level. And so this study will no doubt lead researchers to probe the benefits of red wine, with its antioxidants and resveratrol. It will also lead people to explore the cardiovascular benefits of alcohol, since many of the perks of drinking (such as increased levels of HDL cholesterol) seem to extend to people who drink beer and hard liquor.
Read more here wired.com