The Federal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced in Washington last week that a new study confirms that moderate alcohol consumption is one of four healthy lifestyle behaviours that help people live longer.

According to the NCDC, the four lifestyle behaviours were: having never smoked, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and moderate alcohol consumption. Each was “significantly associated with a reduced risk of mortality”. The CDC researchers concluded that these low-risk lifestyle behaviours “exert a powerful and beneficial effect on mortality”.

The NCDC remarked: “This study adds to the mounting evidence of the substantial gain in life associated with healthy behaviours, and underscores the need for the clinical and public health communities to work together to promote greater adoption of these behaviours.”

The NCDC study entitled Low Risk Lifestyle Behaviours and All-Cause Mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study, were published recently online in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers analysed data from 16,958 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study from 1988 to 2006.

The researchers found that each lifestyle behavior was significant in reducing mortality, and found that the greatest benefit was when moderate alcohol consumption was included with the other three lifestyle behaviours.

The researchers stated using a sample of the US population, it seemed that four low-risk behaviours exerted a powerful protective effect on mortality and several cause-specific categories of mortality. They cited a number of studies reporting potential health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption including reduced all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The researchers also cited “the well-documented harm caused by excessive alcohol use”.

The study authors pointed to the recommendations of the Federal 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which defines moderate drinking as consuming up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. The guidelines define a standard drink as 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof (40 per cent alcohol) distilled spirits, five fluid ounces of wine (12 per cent alcohol), or 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (five per cent alcohol). Each of these standard drinks contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol.

The Distilled Spirits Council does not recommend that people drink alcohol for potential health benefits and have always encouraged those adults who choose to drink to do so responsibly and in moderation. Even drinking in moderation may pose health risks to some people and some individuals should not drink at all.