Research by Michael Marmot from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College, London, found that smokers with the worst diets and poorest exercise habits could consume as many as 14 standard drinks a week and still lower their risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other form of cardiovascular disease. Greater quantities were less beneficial, though still better for those people than being teetotal.
But fit non-smokers who ate well increased their chances of falling prey to heart disease by drinking moderately compared with not at all, though their absolute risk was still much lower than that of their unhealthier peers.
Professor Marmot said health advice - which supports moderate drinking from middle age onwards - should now be modified to reflect how people may be differently affected.
“Most people drink for reasons other than alcohol’s health benefits, but the widely publicised [heart protection] benefits may be used to justify or increase their habit,” he wrote in the Journal Of Epidemiology And Community Health. “The most [protective] effects from moderate drinking were found among those with the worst behaviour profile.”
The findings come from the long-running Whitehall study of British public servants, which has followed the health fortunes of 10,000 Londoners since the 1980s.
Source: ‘Who benefits most from the cardioprotective properties of alcohol consumption? health freaks or couch potatoes?’ A. Britton, M. Marmot, and M. Shipley J Epidemiol Community Health 62: 905-908