Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wham: Non-Drinkers Alert -- Alcohol has some health benefits

Reuters has reported that people who do not drink alcohol may finally have a reason to start -- a study published on Friday shows non-drinkers who begin taking the occasional tipple live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease.

Dr. Dana King of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and colleagues found that people who started drinking in middle age were 38 percent 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.

There has been a lot of good news about a bit of wine or alcohol and the health benefits that result; in the past, however, these researchers have cautioned that there is no reason for the abstinent to start drinking. That could be said differently today.

King's team studied the medical records of 7,697 people between 45 and 64 who began as non-drinkers as part of a larger study. Over 10 years, 6 percent of these volunteers began drinking, King's team reported in the American Journal of Medicine. Over the next four years the researchers tracked the new drinkers and when they compared them to the persistent non-drinkers, there was a 38 percent drop in new cardiovascular disease.

That's right, the drinkers had healthier cardiovascular systems than the non-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. Recommended amounts equal a drink or two a day by most guidelines. Even men who drank every single day of the year were 20 percent less likely to die of heart disease than men who drank just one to 36 days per year -- if they drank moderately.


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