Why Age Gets Stronger with Wine

Because physical fitness and good health go hand in hand, muscle mass and strength are markers of resistance to frailty with aging. There are important behavioral associations such as regular exercise (no surprise there) and moderate regular consumption of alcohol, especially wine (only a surprise if you haven’t been reading this blog!)
Studies on the subject are numerous and from many countries, suggesting that more than cultural factors are involved. A great example is this study[1]from Spain, which prospectively evaluated more than 2000 community-dwelling adults aged 60 and older at enrolment. The researchers were specifically interested in the Mediterranean drinking pattern, defined as moderate alcohol intake, with ≥80% of alcohol intake from wine, and drinking only with meals.  The subjects were followed regularly, with measures of muscle mass, walking speed, and endurance, and other factors. Using validated criteria, the subjects were classified as “frail” if they had low functional scores.

Wine drinkers have better muscle mass

If you are considering a retirement facility, you might want to check out the wine list before you make a decision: After only 3 ½ years, the moderate drinker group was 10% less likely to become frail, but if they were in the clique that preferred wine, the benefit increased to 25%. Those who had their wine with meals were almost 50% less likely to develop frailty.
These results are not unique. A recent meta-analysis[2]combining the results of studies from around the world evaluated the role of alcohol consumption and muscle wasting (sarcopenia) in more than 13,000 subjects. Those who consumed alcohol regularly were about 25% less likely to develop sarcopenia compared to nondrinkers. Though this type of review was not able to parse out the wine drinker subset as in the Spanish study above, the role of alcohol in general was consistently found in high quality studies.
It is also important to note that the amount of alcohol consumed is as important as the pattern of drinking. Heavy alcohol consumption is more likely to promote frailty with advancing age than to forestall it. But get regular exercise, practice lifting a glass with dinner, and things will work out.

[1] Ortolá R, García-Esquinas E, León-Muñoz LM, Guallar-Castillón P, Valencia-Martín JL, Galán I, Rodríguez-Artalejo F. Patterns of Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Frailty in Community-dwelling Older Adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Feb;71(2):251-8.
[2] Steffl M, Bohannon RW, Petr M, Kohlikova E, Holmerova I. Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for sarcopenia – a meta-analysis. BMC Geriatr. 2016 May 11;16:99.

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