Drinking moderately may improve your health, according to recent studies, but the key is moderation and a healthy lifestyle.
A study published in October's Archives of Internal Medicine found that healthy men who drank 15 to 29g of alcohol per day had the lowest risk of heart attacks and those who did not drink at all had the highest.
Another group of researchers presented papers on the health benefits of beer at a University of Maryland conference.
Moderate consumption pays off
There is a unanimous hesitancy among researchers to recommend drinking to avoid certain diseases because of the fine line between moderation and binge drinking.
Medical practitioners have reason for concern in recommending drinking.
It can be dangerous in terms of accidents, homicides and alcoholic liver disease. Yet, as part of a healthy lifestyle it appears that moderate alcohol consumption pays off.
“Study after study has shown that moderate consumers of beer or other alcoholic beverages have much lower risks of coronary heart disease, as well as most other diseases of ageing,” said Dr Curtis Ellison, from Boston University School of Medicine, where the Beer to Your Health! Conference convened.
Funding for the conference and research was provided by the US National Beer Wholesalers Association Education Foundation.
The research study
In the study, “Alcohol consumption and risk for coronary heart disease in men with healthy lifestyles”, researchers assessed the connection between drinking alcohol and heart attacks in 8 867 healthy men between 1986 and 2002.
The cohort included 51 529 dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians and other healthcare professionals aged 40 to 75.
All of the men in the study had healthy lifestyles. They did not smoke, had a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, got at least 30 minutes of exercise per day and ate a healthy diet that included large amounts of fruits, vegetables, fish and polyunsaturated fats as well as low amounts of trans-fats and red meat.
The researchers noticed a significant drop in the risk of heart attacks associated with moderate consumption of alcohol when comparing those who drank 5g per day or more with those who drank less than 5g a day.
“We estimate that 25 percent of the incidence cases of myocardial infarction in this population were attributable to consuming less than 5g per day,” wrote the authors.
Between 1986 and 2002, 106 men had heart attacks. This included eight of the 1 282 who drank 15 to 29,9g of alcohol per day (about two drinks), nine of the 714 who drank 30g or more per day, 34 of the 2 252 who drank 0,1 to 4,9 drinks per day and 28 of the 1 889 who did not drink at all.
Those who drank 15 to 29g per day had the lowest risk for heart attack and those who did not drink at all had the highest.
“We are not telling people to drink more,” said Ellison, “But encouraging more people who do not have a contraindication to alcohol to drink small amounts on a regular basis.” - (Decision News Media, October 2006)