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Jan 23
Light Alcohol May Reduce Disability In Healthy Seniors
A new US study found that light to moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of physical disabilities that cause so may seniors to lose their independence, but this was only the case for healthy older adults, the researchers found no benefit for those in poor health.

The study was the work of lead author, Dr Arun S. Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues, and is published in the 1 January 2009 print issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Some studies have already shown that light to moderate alcohol consumption is linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and death. Karlamangla and colleagues wanted to investigate if this might be the same for physical disability, such as that which impedes the older person from doing essential everyday things like getting dressed, preparing and eating meals, going shopping, walking, and so on.

For the study they looked at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Epidemiologic Follow-up Study surveys from 1982 to 1992 and used data for two 5-year periods relating to 4,276 non-institutionalized US adults who were aged 50 or more.

They found that compared to heavy drinking, or not drinking at all, light to moderate drinking (ie fewer than 15 drinks a week with no more than 5 in a day for men and 4 for women) was linked with a nearly 25 per cent reduced risk of incident disability or death over 5 years.

When they investigated further, by looking at self-reported health status, they found that disability risk went down the more the participants drank, up to the light to moderate limit, but this was only the case for those who reported being in good or better health, it was not the case for those who reported being in fair or worse health.

Karlamangla and colleagues concluded that:

"Alcohol consumption in moderation might reduce the risk of developing physical disability in older adults in good health but not in those in poor health."

Karlamanga told HealthDay of ScoutNews, LLC, that what this finding says to those seniors who only drink a light to moderate amount of alcohol is:

"Don't worry, you're probably in good company, and you're probably going to get good benefits from this."

But he added that "if your health is not good, you probably should not be drinking".

Speculating on the reasons why the not so healthy participants showed no benefit, co-author Dr Alison A Moore, from the David Geffen School of Medicine, where she is a professor specializing in geriatric medicine, said it could be that alcohol has a bad effect on medications, or that their poor health was irreversible.

She said the usual recommendation for the older adult was one drink a day, but these findings show there are healthy seniors who can drink more than this.

"Light to Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Disability: Variable Benefits by Health Status."

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