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A new British study reveals that enjoying alcohol in moderation may actually benefit the physical health of older people. Cheers!

Do you need an excuse to have a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or something stronger? Science is there to help you out. Older people who regularly enjoy alcoholic beverages are fitter and have less trouble with daily activities than peers who never drink, a surprising new study reveals. 

Moderate Drinking Encourages Physical Fitness In Older People?

The study, conducted by British researchers (at least there's no surprise there) from University College London examined the physical abilities and drinking habits of over 30,000 people between the ages of 45 and 69. The research team published its findings in the journal Age and Ageing.

People who enjoyed an alcoholic drink up to four times a week were found to be the most fit and flexible, while teetotalers eventually came to experience more trouble with everyday activities such as walking and getting dressed. 

This was still true after the team excluded former alcoholics, who are more likely to be in poorer physical condition from long periods of alcohol abuse — from the total abstinence group. In fact, the researchers found that teetotalers were 27 percent more likely to have trouble with physical abilities than the group of regular drinkers. 

The research team concluded: "Alcohol consumption was inversely associated with physical limitations in ageing populations. Non-drinkers had the highest odds of physical limitations, but no increased odds were found in the heaviest drinking group. After excluding former drinkers, the results are consistent with a small protective effect for physical limitations."

Drinking in moderation isn't just good for older people's social lives, then, it can also benefit their physical health. I'm left with only one question — should 45 year-old people really be included in the "older" age category? The thought alone may make you want to enjoy those drinks.

Drinking Too Much Still Leads To Problems

Another British study conducted by researchers from Exeter University and published in July wasn't so optimistic about drinking. It noted that people with a history of alcohol use disorder are twice as likely as others to experience severe memory loss later in life. This can include people who stay within the recommended limits. Even one to two units a day for women and three to four for men could be damaging.

This long-term study started in 1992, when 6,542 participants between the ages of 51 and 61 were asked about their drinking habits. A questionnaire they answered helped the researchers identify participants with alcohol use disorder. The yearly cognitive tests between 2006 and 2010 that formed the follow-up showed that 90 participants had severe thinking impairment, while 74 experienced severe memory impairment. 

Lead author Dr Ian Lang explained: “Using a purely numerical measure of alcohol units for the recommended limits might be ignoring that people can drink at that level and still experience problems.”

The first study does not suggest that heavy drinking is beneficial for health. We're talking about a few units a maximum of four times a week. Both studies show that recent UK campaigns that advise people to avoid drinking on consecutive days is sound. "One day on, a few days off" is good advice for people of any age, and a drink or two isn't the same as getting absolutely sloshed — obviously.

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