Wouldn’t it be awesome if drinking alcohol made you live longer? Sadly, it doesn’t — even though a recent study presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science wants you to believe it does. The findings revealed that people who live to 90 or older drink moderate amounts of alcohol. The research linked drinking two glasses of beer or wine every day to an 18 percent decreased risk of dying prematurely.
Truth? This study shows that people who live longer can handle alcohol…because they are healthier in general.
Cracks in alcohol-longevity study
Here’s why the study is misleading. First, it’s a broad, observational study of people over the age of 90 that observed general lifestyle habits. Alcohol consumption is one trend the researchers found in the older population. Secondly, the study did not randomize for control, so at best, it serves as a snapshot of the lives and lifestyles of those over 90 – though is certainly not definitive.
Study population lived longer because they were healthier — not because of alcohol
The real reason this particular older population lived longer is not alcohol consumption specifically, but the fact that they are healthy to begin with. In fact, it may be that their detox processes are just better equipped in general — and that applies to everything they consume – food, drinks, environmental toxins, etc. The point is – no one can be certain that correlation equals causation. Similarly, it’s true that people who live the longest sleep on average only 6.5 hours per night. However, that’s because healthy people need less sleep, not because less sleep is better for you.
What alcohol does in the human body — the cancer link
Now back to alcohol — here is what we do know. Alcohol is responsible for 3.5% of all cancers. In fact, alcohol damages your DNA and puts you at greater cancer risk. Additionally, alcohol wreaks havoc in the following ways:
- It causes a spike in an alcohol breakdown product called acetaldehyde, which in effect, causes cancer and genetic mutation. Read this if you want to learn more about how to hack your hangover to prevent this breakdown.
- It depletes SAMe, which regulates vital cellular functions. Alcohol also causes iron buildup and increases peroxynitrite — both cause oxidative stress, making it harder for your body to detoxify naturally. Read more about the role of alcohol in oxidative stress buildup in my book Head Strong.
- It inactivates tumor suppressor gene BRCA1 and increases your response to estrogen in breast tissue. This makes things way worse if you already have breast cancer. You could elect for a dual mastectomy in order to drink more, but seriously?
Also, if you’re drinking anything but distilled pure spirits, you get a slew of colorings, sugar, and fermentation byproducts, including mycotoxins, which themselves cause cancer. Not a good scenario any way you cut it.
Maintaining a healthy approach to alcohol consumption
Here’s the deal: Alcohol isn’t something you should be drinking every day. You can enjoy an occasional drink and still perform well and live a long time, especially if you choose the right alcohol and block its negative effects. But please don’t make the mistake of using this study as an excuse to drink more. You’ll have less energy now, and not like your life when you’re old!