Drinking wine or beer could lead to a longer life
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Drinking wine or beer could lead to a longer life

It’s the sort of health news most would toast with a cheeky tipple – but it may have health fanatics choking on their carrot juice.

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine or beer a night – while adding a few extra pounds in weight – could be the secret to living into your 90s, a major study finds today.

The research, which looked at those who had lived beyond 90, identified modest alcohol consumption as one of five key factors linked to a long life.

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine or beer a night – while adding a few extra pounds in weight – could be the secret to living into your 90s

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine or beer a night – while adding a few extra pounds in weight – could be the secret to living into your 90s

It found that those who had around two glasses of beer or wine every day had an 18 per cent reduced risk of premature death compared to those who were teetotal.

Meanwhile, being slightly overweight – but not obese – also appeared to reduce the risk of early death, although only by around 3 per cent.

Professor Claudia Kawas, of the University of California, tracked data on around 1,700 people who were in their nineties in 2003 – called the ‘90+ study’.

She said her work had found that modest drinking and carrying extra pounds were both associated with longevity. She also found that those who spent at least two hours a day on a hobby had a 21 per cent lower risk of premature death, while those who took between 15 and 45 minutes of moderate exercise a day had an 11 per cent lower risk. Drinking about two cups of coffee a day gave a ten per cent lower chance.

The study found that those who had around two glasses of beer or wine every day had an 18 per cent reduced risk of premature death compared to those who were teetotal

The study found that those who had around two glasses of beer or wine every day had an 18 per cent reduced risk of premature death compared to those who were teetotal

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Austin, Texas, Professor Kawas said: ‘I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity.’

Previous studies have suggested that light alcohol consumption could lower the chances of a heart attack or heart disease. However, the latest advice from the UK’s Chief Medical Officer states that men and women should consume no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine – and that drinking should be spread evenly over the course of seven days.

On weight, Professor Kawas explained that human biology was geared to adding weight later in life, adding: ‘The best mortality experience is to gain between five and ten pounds per decade.

Being slightly overweight – but not obese – also appeared to reduce the risk of early death, although only by around 3 per cent.

Being slightly overweight – but not obese – also appeared to reduce the risk of early death, although only by around 3 per cent.

‘Underweight people had a 50 per increase in mortality. It’s not bad to be skinny when you’re young but it’s very bad to be skinny when you’re old.’

The research project, which began nearly four decades ago, looked at which factors were linked to a longer life.

On coffee she said: ‘The sweet spot for caffeine was 2-400mg per day, which depending on if you’re a Starbucks fan ... is two cups of coffee probably.’

The number of people over 90 in the UK is rapidly growing – more than 571,245 people in 2016, up from around 200,000 in 1986.

But Professor Kawas said while the tips could extend life, they would not guarantee the extended years would be healthy ones.

She stressed: ‘People should try to incorporate as many of these things into their day if they wish to give themselves the best chance of living to a ripe age.

‘Our data shows none of these lifestyle factors make any difference to the likelihood you will develop dementia.’

n Stroke victims could regain their ability to speak by returning their brains to a childlike state, delegates at the Austin conference were told. Dr Takao Hensch, of Harvard University, said drugs such as valproic acid may let the brain absorb information as easily as it did under the age of seven.

Meanwhile, inventor Takao Someya from the University of Tokyo described how his new ‘electronic skin’ patch could make it easier to monitor the vital signs of babies, old people and the sick.

ZEST FOR LIFE COULD BEAT DEMETIA

Experts were stunned when they carried out brain scans of superagers in their 80s, and 90s. Despite having symptoms associated with dementia, they seemed unaffected by it.

They had a higher proportion in their brain of a rare type of brain cell called Von Economo.The cell is sometimes called a ‘spindle’ neuron and is thought to play a role in being sociable. Professor Emily Rogalski, of Northwestern University in Chicago, said: ‘The findings suggest that superagers have unique personality profiles.’ She told the AAAS: ‘We ask them why is it that you think you are a superager, how did you get here? And there are a couple of funny ladies and they will say: ‘‘Well it’s because I have a Martini with my friends every day at 5 o’clock’’.’

She added: ‘This theme of resilience is also an important one. When we think about how we face life’s challenges... it seems superagers figure out how to move forward, so they are going to bounce back from stress.’