April 9, 2010

Moderate Drinking Lowers Heart Disease Risk

New research has found that moderate drinking cuts heart disease risk in younger adults, according to a recent Reuters report.

However, the researchers wrote in the journal Circulation that young adults are at low risk for heart disease, "and the beneficial effects obtained by a moderate alcohol intake may be negligible compared with the increased risk of, for instance, traffic accidents and cancer."

Moderate drinking, which is typically defined as a drink or two a day, can be heart healthy in older men and women, but heavy drinking does not protect the heart and carries other health risks.

It has been difficult to study the effects of alcohol consumption on heart disease risk in young adults because the disease is so rare in men under 40 and women under 50.

Dr. Alberto Ascherio of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, along with his colleagues, used data form eight studies from North American and Europe that included over 192,000 women and about 75,000 men.  The average age of each male was 50, and the average age of each female was 54.  All of the participants were free from cardiovascular disease during the beginning of the study, and they reported their alcohol drinking habits.

The researchers found that consuming 30 grams of alcohol a day, which is about two or three standard drinks, reduced the risk of developing heart disease in women by 42 percent.  These same habits in men cut their risk by 31 percent.  Once the researchers broke the study participants into age categories, those 50 and under, those 50 to 59, and people 60 or older, they saw the same pattern of reduced risk with moderate drinking in each age group.

Ascherio and his colleagues say that considering the risk of heart disease is so low in young adults, the protective effects of alcohol are stronger in older people at higher risk of heart problems.  However, the team said all the possible health risks of alcohol should be considered when developing guidelines on alcohol consumption for people of different ages.


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