Large Study Affirms Heart Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking

A new study of about 250,000 Americans gave new support to the claim that moderate alcohol consumption benefits coronary health, but this study and a new research review both conclude that heavier drinking confers no health benefits, Reuters reported March 23.

“Cardiovascular patients should be informed that low-to-moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink/day for women or up to 2 drinks/day for men) should not be harmful to their health,” said the author of the large study, Simona Costanzo of Catholic University in Campobasso, Italy.

The review of eight published studies involving more than 16,000 heart patients concluded that there is good evidence that moderate drinking reduces the risk of heart disease, possibly because it raises levels of “good” cholesterol. The research review was led by Kenneth J. Mukamal at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The Mukamal group concluded that light drinkers had a 31-percent lower chance of dying from heart disease or stroke than abstainers, while moderate drinkers reduced their risk by 38 percent. Heavy drinkers, however, had the same risk of death from heart disease as nondrinkers.

“Our results suggest that even in this well-designed study, the lower risk linked to moderate drinking remains,” said Mukumal. “However, it also clearly confirms that the benefit is lost for excessive drinking.”

Both the Costanzo study and the Mukumal report were published in the March 20, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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