Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Five ways to stay healthy

A study was published in Circulation last month that deserves a quick mention. It looked at the number of years of life a fifty year old can expect to gain by adopting 'five low-risk lifestyle-related factors'. The answer was an impressive 14 years for men and 12.2 years for women.

So what are the five factors that extend life? They were...

1. Not smoking
2. A healthy diet
3. At least 30 minutes of daily physical activity
4. A body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9
5. Moderate alcohol consumption

Yes, moderate alcohol consumption - defined as 5-15 grams a day for women and 5-30 grams a day for men. This amounts to a weekly dose of 4-13 units a week for women and 5-26 units a week for men.

The researchers found that...

Each individual component of a healthy lifestyle showed a significant association with risk of total mortality, cancer mortality, and CVD mortality (Table 2). A combination of 5 low-risk lifestyle factors was associated with an HR of 0.26 (95% CI, 0.22–0.31) for all- cause mortality, 0.35 (95% CI, 0.27–0.45) for cancer mortality, and 0.18 (95% CI, 0.12–0.26) for CVD mortality compared with participants with zero low-risk factors.

Table 2 shows the reduction in risk from overall mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Click to enlarge.

As you might expect, there is a strong association between mortality and physical inactivity and healthy eating, with a clear dose-response effect. Cigarette smoking more than doubles the risk of mortality from cancer and CVD, and from mortality in general.

Obesity is associated with a 25 per cent increased mortality risk, with heart disease being the major driver. For all the talk of obesity causing a growing number of cancers (13 is the latest tally), the increased risk is not very great among obese people (12%), let alone overweight people (5%), although it becomes more substantial for the severely obese (24%).

In fact, the increased mortality risk for people who are obese (but not severely obese) is slightly lower than the risks associated with being teetotal (27%). As many other studies have shown, the reduction in overall mortality risk among moderate drinkers is largely due to the reduction in heart disease risk.

And for all the talk of alcohol as a cause of cancer - such as this last week - this study found no increase in cancer risk for people consuming less than 26 units a week. The UK's current low risk guidelines, which were the product of a blatantly corrupt process, are set at just 14 units.

None of this is new. Evidence has been published for decades showing that moderate drinking is good for health and that the risks from consuming alcohol only apply to heavy drinkers.

Further evidence continues to be published on a regular basis. Last year saw a large study published in the British Medical Journal showing that teetotallers are at significantly increased risk of angina, heart attack and various other diseases (see my commentary on it here). There was also this study showing much the same thing (see Eric Crampton's commentary here). And let's not forget this study from last month which did its best to challenge the J-Curve, but which actually supported it.

As this junk science from January showed, there is a concerted effort by the temperance lobby to confuse the public about the evidence on moderate drinking. Tim Stockwell, in particular, seems intent on flooding the search engines with 'merchant of doubt' material to disorientate anyone who wants to look up the facts for themselves.

There's a strong chance that they will succeed because the truth has never been a barrier to these people. They want to make people believe that there is 'no safe level' of drinking and they generally get what they want.

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