Alcohol and Coffee, In Modest Amounts, Linked To Longer Life

As if we needed more reasons to partake of coffee or enjoy that glass of wine after dinner. But one has arisen: longer life.

Ongoing research of people who live to 90 and beyond is revealing some habits that they all seem to have in common. Everyday behaviors do appear to play a role in their longevity. “I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking is associated with longevity,” said co-principle investigator Dr. Claudia Kawas.

According to USA Today,  Kawas is working on The 90+ Study, one of the largest studies in the world of the “oldest-old” Americans. Some 1,800 nonagenarians are now enrolled in the research, contributing their blood and DNA, undergoing exams every six months, having their bodies imaged, and sharing details of their lifestyle.

People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained, The 90+ Study researchers have found. For alcohol, about two glasses of beer or wine daily were linked to a reduced the risk of premature death. The key word is modest: It’s likely people who have had very excessive alcohol intake at younger ages don’t make it to their 90s, she said.

But not all agree with Kawas’ findings. Seventh-day Adventists, for example,  famously have a long life expectancy; 89 years for women and 86 for men, on average and they completely avoid alcohol, said Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study and professor at the Boston University School of Medicine.

“So I think there’s other data that would counter this notion that modest amounts of alcohol are good for you,” Perls told TODAY. Indeed, a 2016 meta-analysis of 87 studies found moderate drinkers didn’t have a reduced risk of death compared to people who abstained all their lives or drank just occasionally. And just one drink a day increases a woman’s cancer risk, a 2015 study found.

When it came to coffee, the caffeinated should shoot for only 200-400 milligrams a day or about two cups of coffee, Kawas said at the conference. “People who had that amount of caffeine, whether it came from coffee, tea, chocolate or other things, lived longer than individuals who had less caffeine or individuals who had more caffeine,” she added.

Studies published last year did confirm drinking coffee in general (decaffeinated or caffeinated) was associated with a reduced risk of death.

But here again, Perls said he’d stick to the healthy behaviors of Seventh-day Adventists, who also avoid caffeine.

But exercise plays a role in longevity too.  As little as 15 minutes of exercise a day was associated with greater longevity, 30 minutes was better, 45 minutes was even better than that, Kawas said about The 90+ Study findings.

“Mercifully, for couch potatoes like me, three hours was no better than 45 minutes,” she noted.

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