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Can Alcohol Really Help Prevent Heart Disease?

Posted Oct 01 2008 4:21pm
People who have never drunk alcohol may wish to consider picking up this habit. Does this contradict to the advices that we used to get: drinking alcohol is bad for our health?

In fact, a recent study conducted by the researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston showed non-drinkers who begin the occasional drinking live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease.

The researchers reported on March 7, 2008 in the “American Journal of Medicine” that people who commenced their drinking in middle age were 38 percent less likely to get a heart attack or other serious heart problem than abstainers were, even if they were overweight, had diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or other heart risks.

In the study, medical records of 7,697 people, between 45 and 64, who began as non-drinkers as part of a larger study were studied. Over a period of 10 years, 6 percent of these volunteers began drinking, though the reason for them to start drinking was unknown.

Over the next 4 years, the new drinkers were tracked and when compared them to the persistent non-drinkers, it showed that there was a 38 percent drop in new cardiovascular disease. Even after factoring in heart disease risks like cholesterol, education levels, exercise, high blood pressure, obesity, race and smoking, the findings still held. In fact, some volunteers who had more than one risk factor still benefited from adding alcohol.

Findings also showed that less than one percent of people drank more than what is recommended, a drink or 2 a day by most guidelines. Meanwhile, the researchers also noted that half of these drinkers were wine drinkers only. Actually, wine-only drinkers showed that they received a much bigger benefit.

The same research team has also started a new study in which non-drinkers would be randomly assigned to start either having a glass of wine a day, a glass of grape juice, or grape juice spiked with antioxidants, compounds believed to help prevent heart disease.

Nevertheless, people are advised not take the findings as an excuse for them to drink freely.
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