Moderation in all things has been a modus operandi for many in tempering the appetites for the pleasures in life.

Another study of the oldest people in America is now bearing out the value of moderation: relatively modest amounts of alcohol and caffeine may help one live into their 90s – or beyond.

The 90+ Study, led by Claudia Kawas at the University of California, Irvine, has been looking at the oldest of the old in the United States since 2003.

Alcohol and caffeine – in controlled amounts – correlated with people living longer, as Karas mentioned last week at a highly-publicized talk at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Sciences meeting in Austin, Texas.

“I have no explanation for it,” said Kawas. “But I do firmly believe that modest drinking is associated with longevity.

“We also found that if you had modest caffeine intake, that was associated with longevity,” she added. “And the sweet spot for caffeine was 200 to 400 milligrams a day… Two cups of coffee, probably.”

The population-level study bucks some recent trends in reports. For instance, recent studies have held that all alcohol intake is a potential carcinogen – and last month British scientists said they found the metabolite in alcohol which can cause the genetic errors triggering the development of tumors. Just this week a Lancet study indicated that chronic alcohol abuse was directly related to early-onset dementia. The alcohol problems are the biggest avoidable risk factor for developing dementia, the study concludes.

Coffee in particular has been subject to a health-trends tug-of-war. Some studies have shown that the brew is linked to lower rates of prostate cancer and cirrhosis – but some coffeehouses in California are starting to label coffee as a carcinogen.

The 90+ Study also found that exercise for up to 45 minutes was linked to better aging in the study group.

The 90+ Study began with 14,000 subjects who had lived in the massive Leisure World retirement community in California, which is now known as the city of Laguna Woods. The people who responded to questions in 1981 were tracked every six months. The study has also since grown to include other volunteer participants.