A new study suggests that about a half a glass of wine each day might just be good for you, increasing life expectancy in men by as much as 5 years. The findings of the Dutch research are the first to suggest that alcohol consumption, in moderation, may actually help a person live longer.
The Dutch researchers evaluated data on 1,373 randomly selected men, all part of the Zutphen Study (named for an industrial town in the Netherlands) that began in 1960.
The researchers followed the subjects from 1960 to 2000, tracking weight, diet, cigarette smoking, the diagnosis of serious illness (heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer) and other data, along with their drinking habits.
All the subjects were born between 1900 and 1920, and enrolled in the study at age 40.
The team looked at the impact of all types of drinking, how much the men drank and the type of alcohol - beer, wine or hard liquor.
How long the men drank was also recorded and included in the research.
The proportion of the subjects who drank alcohol nearly doubled from 45% in 1960 at the beginning of the study to 86% by its end in 2000.
The proportion of men who drank wine shot up from a mere 2% in 1960 to a respectable 44% at the end of the forty-year study.
Over the period of the research, 1,130 of the subjects died, half of them from heart disease.
The conclusion is that light, long term drinking of all types of alcohol extended lifespan in middle-aged men.
Drinking beer, wine or spirits increased life expectancy by just about 2.5 years, compared to men who didn't drink any alcohol.
The amount of intake was small, no more than 20 grams (or 0.7 ounces) a day.
The positive effects from drinking held up in spite of diet and other lifestyle habits, even the socioeconomic levels of the subjects.
Wine was best in terms of extending life expectancy, however. Men who drank only wine, and less than half a glass, lived 2.5 years longer than those who drank either beer or hard liquor.
Men who drank wine lived almost 5 years longer than those subjects who didn't drink any alcohol at all.
Wine drinking was strongly associated with a lower risk of death from coronary artery disease, and death from all causes, though the work didn't differentiate between types of wine - red or white.
Dutch nutritionist Dr. Martinette Streppel explains, "The cardio-protective effects of alcohol only held up for light consumption in middle-aged men."
Lots of other studies have found similar benefits according to study author Streppel from the division of human nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
The length and detail of her study is important for lots of reasons, "The main strength of our study was the collection of detailed information on the consumption of different alcohol beverages at each of seven measurement rounds," she continues.
While the benefits of this work can't automatically be applied to women, wine, especially the red variety, does have polyphenolic compounds that might account for the heart healthy affects.
Beyond drinking wine, beer or spirits in moderation, there are other things your doctor will tell you reduce your risk of heart disease.
Remember the importance of not smoking, being active as many days of the week as possible, eating a natural, balanced diet and keeping your weight at a healthy number.