Page last updated: Monday, February 09, 2009
Alcohol protects men from heart disease, study suggests

Drinking alcohol seems to protect the hearts of Spanish men, but not Spanish women, findings from a large study suggest.
Larrarte Arriola, of the Public Health Department of Gipuzkoa, Basque Government in San Sebastian, Spain and colleagues assessed the drinking habits in the year prior to study entry among 15,630 men and 25,808 women, 26 to 69 years old. Over the next 10 years, they tracked heart attacks and other heart-related “events” that occurred in these individuals.
Most of them were free of heart disease at the outset. Over 10 years, 481 men and 128 women suffered a heart-related event. The rate of heart-related events per 100,000 persons per year was 300 for men and 48 for women.
The study suggests that heart-related events were at least 30 percent less likely among moderate, high, and very high drinking men in analyses that allowed for other factors linked with heart disease including older age, smoking, education, physical activity and weight. Type of alcohol consumed did not influence the association. It should be noted however, that the heavy drinking men would be increasing their risk of other health problems and diseases that are not assessed in this study.
The researchers describe moderate drinking as 5 to 30 grams (0.2 to 1.2 ounces) of alcohol a day on average, while high and very high drinkers reported daily consumption of 30 to 90 grams (1.2 to 3.6 ounces), and more than 90 grams, respectively.  The researchers did not find a similar protective association among women, however, likely because of their low number of heart-related events.
Previous investigations have reported similar findings in other groups, the researchers note. But their study stands out because they separately analyzed the typically less healthy former drinkers and abstainers. This allowed Arriola’s team to show that former drinkers’ poor health status, not their alcohol abstinence, elevated their heart disease risk.
This factor further strengthens the association of lower heart disease risk for moderate drinkers, Arriola said, although the current study noted lower risk even in high drinkers compared with never drinkers.

Source: Heart, January 15, 2010

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