Alcohol ‘a threat to life, not a secret to extending it’

6919247795_3e388d13d7_oThe UK’s top doctor has dismissed one of the most consistent centenarian longevity ‘secrets’ – a daily glass of beer, Scotch, wine or Guinness.

Rather than extending life, says the government’s Chief Medical Officer, any amount of daily alcohol is a risk to it. Dame Sally Davis says alcohol increases the risk of many cancers and its protective effect against heart disease has been overstated. She outlined new official guidance which says people should not drink every day and should limit their weekly intake to the equivalent of seven glasses of wine, though even this relatively small amount brings an element of increased risk.

There is some slight comfort for women over 55, for whom  drinking up to five units of red wine may still protect the heart. That though is no more than two and a half glasses of wine a week.

The new recommendations stem from a view that previous research studies showing a much larger protective effect of drinking alcohol were flawed. We have covered that concern here.

The new advice means that UK has some of the toughest advice on drinking. Would-be centenarians who have a daily glass of red wine, a shot of whisky or – as in this recent centenarian’s storya daily Martini for lunch get no support for their habit.

It remains to be seen whether other countries will follow the UK’s lead. And – just guessing here – I think it’s unlikely to alter many centenarians’ beliefs about alcohol and longevity, at least in the short term.

 

photo credit: the problem of sympathy via photopin (license)

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STORY SO FAR: top-rated ways to live to 100

Twenty entries in to our ‘101 ways to live to 100′ and already one or two trends are emerging. Alcohol and religion both turn up in quite a few of our centenarians’ secrets to longevity, as does chocolate. So far, no one has mentioned genetics (though a few have mentioned ‘family’). And our surprise leader is mountaineering.

Our league table below is surely the only time these words have ever appeared in a list together:

9/10: Mountaineering
8/10: A loving family; Be happy and enjoy life;
7/10: A good doctor; praising God
6/10: One meal a day; sleep; hard work
5/10: ChocolateMonogamy; Guinness; Yoga; a lot of booze
4/10: Two raw eggs;
3/10: Work less overtime;
2/10: Bacon
1/10: Water from a wishing well
0/10: Pearls
No score: Good food; stem cells

Back soon with: Does a sense of humour help you live longer?

NEWS: ‘Key to longer life is three beers and a whisky chaser’

3208521661_587da1bcd9_oNo surprise to see that another centenarian is extolling the virtues of alcohol as a longevity aid. Agnes ‘Aggie’ Fenton hit 110 this week in New Jersey and delighted the press and internet with her longevity ‘secret’: three Miller High Lifes and a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label every day.  Agnes even says that it was a doctor who recommended the regime to her.

Alcohol has turned up pretty frequently so far in 101 ways to live to 100. Pauline Spagnola said that her longevity secret was ‘a lot of booze’ and Gladys Fielden swore it was Guinness. Nazar Singh talked about good food, his family – and his nightly shot of whisky.

And we know there may be some truth in moderate alcohol consumption helping people live longer, though three lagers and a whisky every day may be pushing is just a little.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/33549343@N04/3208521661″>Beers and Cheers 011809</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Secret no.12 A loving family’

Nazar Singh, who died last month in India where he was visiting family, was believed to be Europe’s oldest man. He was though to be 111, though he had no birth certificate.

He told media after his 110th birthday that his longevity was due to good food, good family and happiness. However his fondness for a tot of whisky every night – and perhaps the fact that he was pictured on his birthday with a pint of lager and a whisky chaser – led understandably to the whisky also being cited (we’ve covered whisky in another post).

Nazar was born in the Punjab, India. He navigated two world wars and the independence and partition of India before moving to the UK in 1965. He worked in a foundry in the West Midlands and then moved to Sunderland on retirement. He returned to India in January this year and was being cared for by his two eldest sons.

Plausibility rating: 8 out of 10. We don’t know exactly what food Nazar ate (though we know he drank milk and almond oil}. There is evidence about the beneficial effect of alcohol in moderation but also some that questions it. And he is surely right to emphasise the importance of a loving family to longevity: the absence of strong relationships – whether family or friends – is linked to early death. One study, cited by the Campaign to End Loneliness, says it is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Nazar believed that ‘family need to look after elders’, a view that would be popular with the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who recently worried in public about the number of ‘lonely funerals’. The latter need not have concerned Nazar: he had 34 grandchildren and 63 great-grandchildren.