February 23, 2011
An Drink A Day Helps Fight Heart Disease
According to a review of 30 years of research, an alcoholic drink a day can help keep heart disease at bay.
The work showed a 14 percent to 25 percent reduction in heart disease in moderate drinkers compared with people who had never drank alcohol.
Another article showed alcohol increased "good" cholesterol levels.
However, experts said that this was not a reason to start drinking.
Studies have suggested for years that drinking alcohol in moderation has some health benefits.
Scientists at the University of Calgary reviewed 84 pieces of research between 1980 and 2009.
Half a pint of normal beer contains about 0.3 ounces of pure alcohol.
This review showed that the overall risk of death was lower for those consuming small quantities of alcohol compared with non-drinkers.
The team says regular moderate drinking reduced all forms of cardiovascular diseases by up to 25 percent.
However, the risk increased substantially with heavier drinking.
Professor William Ghali of the Institute for Population and Public Health at the University of Calgary told BBC: "Our extensive review shows that drinking one or one to two drinks would be favorable."
"There is this potentially slippery slope, most notably with social problems and alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, but the overall mortality including cancer and accidents shows you would be better with alcohol."
Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told BBC: "This analysis of previous studies supports what we already know about moderate drinking reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease."
"However, drinking more than sensible amounts of alcohol does not offer any protection and can cause high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers and damage to our heart."
"If you don't drink, this is not a reason to start. Similar results can be achieved by being physically active and eating a balanced and healthy diet."
The team believes that any beneficial effects are down to the alcohol itself, rather than anything else in a drink.
Their second study suggests that drinking up to 0.5 ounces of alcohol a day for women or 1 ounce a day for men increased levels of good cholesterol, adiponectin and apolipoprotein, which have been linked to a healthy heart.
They said this pattern was true for all types of beverages.
The team believes that governments may have to change their messages on public health to argue for drinking alcohol in moderation.
Ghali told BBC: "There's no doubt a public health campaign would be controversial. We need to ponder the message of how a doctor talks to a patient and how the government talks to the people."
Professor Lindsey Davies, president of the Faculty of Public Health, added: "It just strengthens the argument that a little bit does you good, but a lot does you harm, but that always makes a public health message hard."
The results of Ghali's study were published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday.
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