Abstinence makes the heart grow feebler
Should non-drinkers start? Scientists behind a new US study are suggesting that the benefits of moderate alcohol drinking are now so clear that it might be time to encourage non-drinkers to do just that.
Theirs is not the first study to suggest that moderate drinking is better for your health than avoiding alcohol all together but it is the first to suggest that non-drinkers looking for longer lives and better heart health might like to reconsider.
Research at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston found that people who started drinking in middle age were 38% less likely to have a heart attack or other serious heart event than abstainers - even if they were overweight, had diabetes, high blood pressure or other heart risks.
Many studies have shown that light to moderate drinkers are healthier than teetotalers, but every time, the researchers have cautioned that there is no reason for the abstinent to start drinking. Now there may be, says lead researcher Dr. Dana King who studied the medical records of 7,697 people between 45 and 64 who began drinking as part of a larger study.
"This study certainly shifts the balance a little bit," he told Reuters. "Over the four years we tracked the new drinkers and when we compared them to the persistent non-drinkers, there was a 38% drop in new cardiovascular disease. There was a much bigger benefit for wine-only drinkers."
The findings held even when the researchers factored in heart disease risks such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, race, education levels, exercise and cholesterol. Several of the volunteers had more than one risk factor and still benefited from adding alcohol, King said.
The key is moderate drinking - fewer than 1% of people in the study drank more than the recommended guidelines of a drink or two a day.
Another study published last week supports that advice. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health has bad news for binge-drinkers.
Their study of 44,000 people showed that men who had five or more drinks on days they did drink were 30% more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than men who had just one drink a day.
This held regardless of what their average drinking intake was. Even men who drank every single day of the year were 20% less likely to die of heart disease than men who drank on just one to 36 days per year. In other words, regular, moderate drinking was healthier than having the occasional binge.
Page created on March 10th, 2008
Page updated on December 21st, 2009