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Middle-aged women who drink alcohol in moderation have a better chance than nondrinkers of staying healthy as they age, especially if they spread out their consumption over most days of the week, a new study from Harvard researchers suggests.
The study followed nearly 14,000 mostly white women beginning in 1976. Compared with teetotalers, those who averaged roughly three to 15 alcoholic drinks per week in their late 50s had up to 28% higher odds of being free from chronic illness, physical disability, mental health problems, and cognitive decline at age 70, the study found.
The findings don't necessarily apply to men or to nonwhite women. But they add to the "strong, consistent evidence" that people who drink in moderation are less likely than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers to experience health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia, says Qi Sun, M.D., the lead author of the study and a nutrition researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston.