Proper scientists: Old folk should drink more, not less
UK call for booze crackdown on elderly slammed
Serious international researchers into the health effects of alcohol have uncompromisingly slammed a recent call by British psychiatrist for severe restrictions on drinking by elderly people.
A report issued earlier this month by the Royal College of Psychiatrists described elderly (over-65) drinkers as society's "invisible addicts" and said that the government should issue stringent new recommendations on alcohol limits for older people - equivalent to just one glass of wine a day for men and a mere dirty glass for ladies.
Now academic reviewers at the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, based at Boston University's Medical Center, have responded. They say that a sudden cut in old-timers drinking would probably cause a lot of dangerous health problems:
It should be made clear that 65-year-olds are healthier than people of that age a generation ago - age-specific disability rates are decreasing, not increasing.
The [UK psychiatrists'] report was conspicuously lacking in a discussion of the important role that moderate drinking can play in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, diabetes, dementia, and osteoporosis. Advising healthy people aged 65 years or older who are moderate, responsible drinkers to stop drinking or to markedly reduce their intake would not be in their best health interests, especially in terms of their risk of cardiovascular diseases ... the absolute risk for cardiovascular diseases increases markedly with age, and therefore the beneficial or protective effect of light to moderate drinking on cardiovascular diseases is greater in the elderly than in younger people.
And there are in fact many other benefits of an occasional tipple when one finds oneself getting on a bit - in fact some of the worst scourges of the elderly are alleviated.
Evidence is also accumulating that shows that the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia is lower among moderate drinkers than among abstainers. Neurodegenerative disorders are key causes of disability and death among elderly people. Epidemiological studies have suggested that moderate alcohol consumption, may reduce the incidence of certain age-related neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease. Regular dietary intake of flavonoid-rich foods and/or beverages has been associated with 50% reduction in the risk of dementia, a preservation of cognitive performance with ageing,a delay in the onset of Alzheimer's disease and a reduction in the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
If this wasn't enough, the fact is that a drop of booze now and then just makes life more pleasant.
Scientific data are consistent in demonstrating that quality of life is better and total mortality is lower among moderate drinkers than among abstainers.
Indeed, taken overall, if the UK government as a whole - and doctors advising their patients in particular - actually wanted to help older folks to live pleasanter, healthier, more fulfilling lives they would in fact advise them to drink more, not less.
[A recent study] showed a direct dose-response relation between alcohol consumption and risk of death in women aged 16-54 and in men aged 16-34, whereas at older ages the relation is U shaped ... The authors state that their data suggest that women should INCREASE their intake to 3 units a day over age 75, and men rise from 3 units a day up to age 54 to 4 units a day up to age 84.
Full details of the damning critique responding to the psychiatrists' poorly-informed and silly recommendations can be found here at the website of the Boston University School of Medicine. ®