Very light wine consumption — the equivalent of about half a glass a day — over the long term appears to lead to a longer life, new research shows.

Among a group of randomly selected Danish men who were repeatedly monitored between 1960 and 2000 as part of the Zutphen Study, long-term light wine consumption was associated with an increase in life expectancy of nearly 5 years.

The benefit was independent of total alcohol consumption, Dr. Martinette T. Streppel from Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and colleagues report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

According to the report, during the 40-year monitoring period, 1,130 of the 1,373 men in the study died. The average age at death was 77 years.

Mirroring past studies, long-term light alcohol intake was significantly associated with lower mortality risk. The investigators found that the life expectancy of men with a long-term alcohol intake of up to 20 grams per day was 2.3 years longer than that of non-drinkers.

Drinking more than that decreased the benefit. For men who consumed more than 20 grams of alcohol per day, life expectancy was 1.9 years longer compared with non-drinkers.

Independent of total alcohol intake, wine consumption was highly protective. Long-term intake of 2 grams of alcohol from wine per day, on average, increased life expectancy by 2.5 years compared to drinkers of beer or spirits, and by 4.7 years compared to nondrinkers.

In the study, 70 percent of wine consumed was red wine.

The link between wine and longer lifespan remained when the analysis factored in socioeconomic status, dietary factors and other lifestyle habits.

SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, online April 30, 2009.