old drink alcohol age
The secret to living long into ripe old age has been heavily debated for quite some time.

Eating a healthier diet, regularly practising yoga in a peaceful park, visiting exotic hot springs to cleanse your body... people have tried all sorts of things to ensure longevity.

However, a study has discovered that the key to reaching past the age of 90 could all come down to drinking a couple of glasses of alcohol a night and putting on a few extra pounds.

Dr Claudia Kawas, a specialist in neurology from the University of California, spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Austin, Texas about research that she has carried out for the past 15 years.

She and her team began The 90+ Study in 2003 in order to investigate the reasons why some people reach the age of 90 and beyond and others don't.

The researchers analysed 1,700 nonagenarians, examining how their daily habits affect their health.

They discovered that those who consumed approximately two glasses of beer or wine a day were 18 per cent less likely to experience a premature death.

Furthermore, those who were slightly overweight, although not obese, were recorded as having a three per cent reduced chance of an early death.

"I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity," Dr Kawas stated at the conference.

Comment: As with most things, the answer probably lies in the dose: Mouse study suggests there's an amount of alcohol that's good for the brain. Ultimately we need to know the likelihood both with and without alcohol for the results to mean anything. If the chances of experiencing premature death are 1 in 1 million, then an 18% reduction is actually insignificant. We need context.

Moderate drinking wasn't the only activity reported as having a positive impact on the health of the participants.

Regular exercise and spending time practising a hobby were also associated with living for longer.

Those who spent two hours a day on a hobby were 21 per cent less likely to pass away prematurely, while 15 to 45 minutes of daily physical activity also reportedly reduced their risk of an early death by 11 per cent.

For some people, living past the age of 90 and maintaining a healthier overall wellbeing in old age could be related to their genetic makeup.

Scientists from the Northwestern University in Chicago have carried out a study exploring the memory of people who are more than 80 years old.

The team noted that the individuals classified as "superagers" - a term coined by neurologist Marsel Mesulam to categorise people whose memory and attention span reflects that of someone far younger - had a greater concentration of Von Economo neurons in their brains.

Von Economo neurons are a type of brain cell that are believed to increase social behaviour, which could in turn help a person retain their memory for longer.

Some of the "superagers" even had more Von Economo neurons in their brains than people in their 20s.