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Alcohol 'protects' men's hearts

20th November 2009

Regular consumption of alcohol, no matter which particular drink, greatly reduces heart disease risk in men, according to a recent Spanish study.


The beneficial effect was not as pronounced in the women who participated in the study.

Larraitz Arriola, a researcher at the Public Health Department of Gipuzkoa in San Sebastian, said that her team's finding confirms what many other studies have already said.

However, study subjects who drank heavily were also able to increase their heart health by drinking, in a way that people who did not drink did not.

Heavy drinking can still bring an increased risk of other diseases, but people in Spain, where rates of alcohol consumption are high, experience relatively low rates of heart disease.

Arriola said that, although even heavy drinking can be beneficial to the heart, she would not advise anybody to simply start drinking, because alcohol causes 1.8 million deaths a year.

She said that people who already drink regularly should be sure to drink moderately and have healthy lifestyles.

For the purposes of the study, researchers gathered data on upwards of 41,000 men and women, all of whom made records of their alcohol intake.

All of the subjects had enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study, which comprises about 500,000 adults throughout 10 countries in Western Europe.

Of the initial batch of 41,000 subjects, 15,630 were men and 25,808 were women.

About half of the study subjects were followed for 10 years or more.

In follow-up interviews, the researchers looked for events such as heart attacks or chest pains among the study subjects.

In total, the researchers recorded 609 cardiovascular events among the original 41,000 after following-up with them.

481 of the events were in men, and 128 were in women.

In men, habitual heavy drinkers had reduced risk factors for such events, by more than half.

By contrast, men who were light drinkers were able to reduce their risk by up to 35%.

There was no statistical difference between the various types of alcohol consumed.

Since men who drank moderately were able to reduce their risk of heart disease by up to 51%, they fared best overall.

The researchers classified light drinkers as being people who drank under 5 grams a day, and moderate drinkers as being people who drank under 30 grams a day, or between two and three beers.

Kristi Reynolds, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group in the US, said that the implications of the Spanish study should be examined cautiously, and doctors should give patients individually tailored advice regarding alcohol consumption.


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Seán Ó Drisceoil

Friday 20th November 2009 @ 16:09

It would be interesting to get the % for " subjects who drank heavily" and " were also able to increase their heart health by drinking," as the amount for moderate drinking is about 250 ml of 12.5% wine. I know one has to keep an eye on calories as well but as long as one stays under the inebriation zone and drinks dry wine or cider, I would imagine that two such glasses well spaced out from each other in time by a few hours might be the optimum lifestyle ?

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