Background: Light to moderate alcohol intake lowers the risk of cardiovascular mortality, but whether this protective effect can be attributed to a specific type of beverage remains unclear. Moreover, little is known about the effects of long-term alcohol intake on life expectancy.
Methods: The impact of long-term alcohol intake and types of alcoholic beverages consumed on cardiovascular mortality and life expectancy at age 50 was investigated in the Zutphen Study, a cohort of 1373 men born between 1900 and 1920 and examined repeatedly between 1960 and 2000. Hazard ratios (HRs) for total alcohol intake and alcohol from wine, beer and spirits were obtained from time-dependent Cox regression models. Life expectancy at age 50 was calculated from areas under survival curves.
Results: Long-term light alcohol intake, that is ⩽20 g per day, compared with no alcohol, was strongly and inversely associated with cerebrovascular (HR 0.43, 95% CI 0.26 to 0.70), total cardiovascular (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.89) and all-cause mortality (HR 0.75, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.91). Independent of total alcohol intake, long-term wine consumption of, on average, less than half a glass per day was strongly and inversely associated with coronary heart disease (HR 0.61, 95% CI 0.41 to 0.89), total cardiovascular (HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.86) and all-cause mortality (HR 0.73, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.87). These results could not be explained by differences in socioeconomic status. Life expectancy was about 5 years longer in men who consumed wine compared with those who did not use alcoholic beverages.
Conclusion: Long-term light alcohol intake lowered cardiovascular and all-cause mortality risk and increased life expectancy. Light wine consumption was associated with 5 years longer life expectancy; however, more studies are needed to verify this result.
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Competing interests: None.
Funding: This work was partly supported by a grant from the former Inspectorate for Health Protection and Veterinary Public Health, at present integrated in the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, The Netherlands.
Ethics approval: Baseline data were collected in 1960 before the Helsinki Declaration was developed, and oral informed consent was obtained in view of follow-up data. In 1985 and 1990, the study was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, and in 1995 and 2000, by the Medical Ethics Committee of The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
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