Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seniors Who Drink have Reduced Physical Disabilities

As a health conscious reader, you have regularly seen those reports (a few on this site) that say drinking some alcohol may be beneficial, but those reports are generally relegated to research that has been done on cognitive function. Now, there is new research that suggests light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may actually help to stave off the development of physical disabilities in seniors.

It has been known for some time that moderate alcohol consumption can be good for you, for example drinking a couple of glasses of wine can boost heart health. However, results by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles suggest that seniors who are in good health can help to remain so by enjoying the occasional drink.

Data from 4,276 men and women with a mean age of 60.4 years was examined in this report by Dr Arun Karlamangla and his colleagues. At the start of the survey, 32% of men and 51% of women did not drink alcohol (defined as drinking less than 12 drinks per year), 51% of men and 45% of women were light-to-moderate drinkers (defined as drinking less than 15 drinks per week), and 17% of men and 4% women were heavy drinkers (defined as drinking more than 15 drinks per week). No participants had any disabilities at the start of the study.

Five years later a followup study was conducted, showing 7% of participants had died and 15% had become physically disabled. This "disability" was defined by the fact that they had trouble performing, or were unable to perform normal activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing, and eating (after taking into account risk factors for disability, such as age, smoking, exercise, and heart attack and stroke history).

Results showed that seniors who rated their health as good or better and who consumed light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol had reduced their risk of physically disability by 3 to 8% for each additional drink per week. No benefit was seen in seniors who rated their health as fair or poor, nor in heavy drinkers.

“Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption appears to have disability prevention benefits only in men and women in relatively good health. It is possible that those who report poor health have progressed too far on the pathway to disability to accrue benefits from alcohol consumption and that alcohol consumption may even be deleterious for them," reported the scientists.


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