Wine and Life Span

In case you missed it, I’m changing the direction of this blog to cover personal interests, including health. (Check back for an announcement regarding where I’ll write about religious matters.) published the article, “Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer.” Unfortunately, while I plan to continue drinking red wine and other alcoholic beverages in moderation, I am unpersuaded by the study in question that drinking red wine causes longer life spans.

The article summarizes the findings:

Men who regularly drank up to a half a glass of wine each day boosted their life expectancy by five years…

All long-term light alcohol drinking boosted life expectancy by about 2.5 years in comparison to abstainers.

Drinking more than 0.7 ounces a day extended life expectancy by nearly two years compared with nondrinkers.

Wine drinkers who averaged just 0.7 ounces a day had a 2.5 year-longer life expectancy at age 50 compared to those who drank beer or spirits. And their life expectancy was nearly five years longer than nondrinkers.

Drinking moderately was linked with lower death risk, and drinking wine was strongly linked with a lower risk of dying from heart disease, stroke or other causes.

I wonder where the 0.7 ounce cut-off came from. Presumably, people who drank more than that included those who drank a lot more than that; at a certain point the potential health benefits of drinking alcohol are offset by drinking too much alcohol.

The Forbes article includes the following voice of skepticism:

“Once again, it shows that people who drink [moderately] do a lot better than people who don’t in terms of survival,” [Dr. Arthur Klatsky, a long-time investigator on the health benefits of alcohol] said.

However, as with other research, Klatsky wondered if it’s the pattern of drinking or something related to the wine drinking — such as wine drinkers being more likely to exercise or eat a healthy diet — that is the real link.

In the new Dutch study, he says, alcohol from spirits contributes the most to the total alcohol intake, more than wine or beer.

“It’s a little hard to think that a little bit of wine is what is responsible for extending their life,” Klatsky said.

Klatsky’s concern is more potent to the degree that some people start drinking red wine expressly for its reputed health benefits; presumably, such people are more generally concerned about their health and so would live longer whether or not they drank red wine.

But I have a different concern. People who drink wine with their meals tend to have more sociable and slower meals. People who enjoy themselves more and socialize more tend to live longer. I wonder to what degree red wine is a symptom, rather than a cause, of a robust lifestyle.

To be fully convincing, a case for the health benefits of wine would have to show a physiological relationship between the phytochemicals or alcohol in red wine to a human body’s functioning. I will not be surprised if such a link is definitively discovered. The study in question, though, doesn’t seem to sort out the potential causes well enough, and the study’s abstract does not alleviate that concern.