C-reactive protein level partially mediates the relationship between moderate alcohol use and frailty: the Health and Retirement Study

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Abstract

Background: frailty is an indicator of late-life decline marked by higher rates of disability and healthcare utilisation. Research has linked health benefits with moderate alcohol use, including frailty risk reduction. Past work suggests inflammation, measured by C-reactive protein (CRP), as one candidate mechanism for this effect.

Objective: this study aims to elucidate a possible mechanism – CRP modulation – by which moderate alcohol consumption may protect against frailty.

Methods: a cross-sectional study using data from the 2008 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) conducted by the University of Michigan. The HRS is a cohort study on health, retirement and aging on adults aged 50 and older living in the USA. A final sample of 3,229 stroke-free participants, over the age of 65 years and with complete data, was identified from the 2008 wave. Alcohol use was measured via self-report. Frailty was measured using the Paulson–Lichtenberg Frailty Index. CRP was collected through the HRS protocol.

Results: results from structural equation modelling support the hypothesised model that moderate alcohol use is associated with less frailty and lower CRP levels. Furthermore, the indirect relationship from moderate alcohol use to frailty through CRP was statistically significant.

Conclusions: overall findings suggest that inflammation measured by CRP is one mechanism by which moderate alcohol use may confer protective effects for frailty. These findings inform future research relating alcohol use and frailty, and suggest inflammation as a possible mechanism in the relationship between moderate alcohol use and other beneficial health outcomes.

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