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Two or three drinks a day can help keep doctor away

Sipping two or three glasses of wine, beer or cocktails per day helped older adults live longer than teetotalers in a study that confirmed the health benefits of moderate drinking.

A study of 1,824 adults, aged between 55 and 65, found that moderate and heavy drinkers were less likely to die than abstainers over a 20-year span.

Moderate drinkers were defined as those who have one to fewer than three drinks daily, with heavy drinkers having three or more alcoholic beverages a day, according to the study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The results refuted a common criticism of previous similar findings, that results were skewed because researchers included former problem drinkers with poor health in the abstainers' group.

The authors found that, even after excluding results from past problem drinkers and people with poor health status such as obesity, moderate drinkers still lived longer than non-drinkers, they said.

"Importantly, any health-protective effects of alcohol appear to be limited to regular moderate drinking," wrote the study authors, led by Charles Holahan, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. "Heavy episodic drinking -- even when average consumption remains moderate -- is associated with increased cardiovascular risk."

Overall, older adults who didn't drink at all had a 49pc greater risk of dying during the 20 years of the study than those who drank moderately, the researchers found. Heavy drinkers had a 42pc increased risk of dying compared with moderate drinkers.

However, Professor Holahan said in a statement: "Older persons drinking alcohol should remember that consuming more than two drinks a day exceeds recommended alcohol consumption guidelines," and may lead to more falls and side effects from medication.