Researchers: Coffee and alcohol may be the secret to a long life

Photo: Rekha Garton

Alcohol and coffee are both wrapped in an alluring mystique. Researchers can’t seem to decide whether the two beverages are good for us, or the worst things we can consume. For every study that comes to a positive conclusion, there inevitably seems to be a counterpoint that refutes those findings.

But good news: research once again tips the scales in favor of the occasional Starbucks or cocktail. Go ahead — take a moment to sigh with relief.

“People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained,” researchers at the University of California Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) found.

That conclusion was not reached lightly. Researchers at UCI MIND have been studying 90-year-olds since 2003 in one of the largest projects analyzing the oldest-old population. 1,600 participants enrolled in the 90+ Study get visits every six months to check on their neurological and neuropsychological health, and from those results, researchers have been able to identify trends.

Perhaps the most surprising result is that coffee and alcohol drinkers live longer — though whether that’s correlation or causation is hard to tell. Another finding that goes against traditional wisdom is that “people who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than normal or underweight people did.” For all the emphasis on weight loss and exercise, it seems that being a few pounds heavier may not be a death sentence after all.

So maybe it’s time to take a cue from the oldest-olds and start rethinking how we look at health. For most of us, one drink at a party or espresso in the morning isn’t such a bad thing; in fact, it might be healthy to indulge in the small pleasures we like. We just have to avoid excess and extremes and find what feels right for us.