A pint of beer or a glass of wine a day can help older people live longer, according to research.
The potential “protective” benefits of moderate drinking “clearly outweigh” the possible cancer risk, experts said.
Downing 14 units or less per week for men, or seven for women, was linked to a 13% reduced risk of “all-cause mortality” in men and a 34% lower risk in women.
Male moderate drinkers had 21% less chance of dying from cardiovascular disease , rising to 34% for women.
Similar findings were observed for light drinkers who had fewer than three drinks per week. However, researchers warned heavier drinking is linked to greater health problems, negating any benefits.
Dr Bo Xi, of Shandong University School of Public Health, in China, who led the study, said: “Light-to-moderate drinking might have some protective effects against cardiovascular disease – while heavy drinking can lead to death. A delicate balance exists between beneficial and detrimental effects.”
Co-author Dr Sreenivas Veeranki, of the University of Texas, added: “A J-shaped relationship exists between alcohol consumption and mortality, and drinkers should drink with consciousness.”
Male heavy drinkers had a 25% increased risk of death from any cause, and a 67% increase in dying from cancer, found medics in Texas, who studied data from 333,247 participants in 12 years of US surveys, as part of the joint study.
Heavy drinkers were defined as having more than 14 units a week for men, seven for women.
Neurology specialist Giovanni de Gaetano said younger adults should not expect much benefit from moderate drinking. He added: “For most older persons, the overall benefits of light drinking, especially the reduced cardiovascular disease risk, outweigh possible cancer risk.”