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Saturday, January 11, 2003

Not the Pepsi Challange


I ran across this article yesterday while I was surfing online. I thought some of you may like it.


Jan. 8, 2003 -- It seems like a barfly's dream come true: Scientific evidence -- from Harvard Medical School, no less -- suggests that the more often men drink, the less likely they are to have heart attacks. After studying alcohol consumption patterns of more than 38,000 health professionals over 12 years, researchers say the risk of America's top killer, heart disease, appears to steadily decrease as imbibing quantity and frequency increases.


In the study, men who drank alcohol three to four times or more per week were about 30-40% less likely to have a heart attack during the 12-year period, compared with men who drank less than once a week.

The study also found that the type of alcohol beverage didn't matter -- beer, wine, or liquor -- they all provided some protection against heart disease, although the strongest association for the reduced risk was with beer and liquor. These findings are published in the Jan. 9 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.


Does this mean that more booze is better?


While the researchers find that two drinks seem better than one, and drinking more frequently may enhance protection more than just an occasional indulgence, they stress moderation -- albeit, perhaps more regularly than what some previously believed.


"The amount of alcohol consumed by the men in our study was well within the recommended range of no more than two drinks a day. Drinking heavier amounts does not provide additional benefits in preventing heart attacks and it poses other health hazards," says lead researcher Kenneth Mukamal, MD, MPH.


"And while our study showed a greater benefit from drinking three or four times a week compared [with] once or twice a week or not at all, there really is no additional benefit in preventing heart attack from drinking every day. Once you go beyond those three or four nights a week, you don't get any additional bang for your buck."


Researchers have shown that different drinking patterns can modify "good" HDL cholesterol, and there is evidence it may also improve blood sugar sensitivity, possibly reducing the risk of diabetes. Yet heavier amounts -- beyond the recommended two glasses per sitting -- can raise blood pressure and boost the risk of diabetes, as well as damage the liver, significantly raise risk of traffic and other accidents, and add excess pounds.


"Alcohol does raise HDL cholesterol and may have other benefits, but it also does some bad things, such as have an anti-clotting effect on blood. Studies show that people who drink to excess, even if only one night a week, face a higher death rate," says Margo Denke, MD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, another researcher who has documented health benefits of alcohol. "My advice is not for people to take up alcohol or see this as a license to drink more in order to lower their risk of heart attack. It's to not eat as much and to exercise more"

The Harvard finding was based on surveys, distributed every two years from 1986 to 1998, about the drinking habits of the 38,000 study participants. During the 12 years, 1,418 had heart attacks -- more often occurring in those who drank little or not at all. The fact that they were all veterinarians, dentists, physicians, and other types of doctors may have had some role in the results, since the health professionals are statistically more likely to practice healthier lifestyles, such as smoking less, exercising more, and eating better.

"It's true that their socioeconomic status and even lifestyle is somewhat different than the average, but we don't have any evidence to suggest that biological effects of alcohol are different for them than for the general population," says Mukamal. "However, heavier drinkers also tend to be smokers but even in heaviest drinking group in our study -- those who consumed alcohol daily -- only about a quarter were smoking when the study began."


He and his colleagues also found the protective nature of drinking was greater in beer and hard liquor than with wine, which is more frequently touted for its antioxidant properties in reducing risk of heart disease. But again, it was a matter of frequency: "When these men drank, they typically had a martini or beer over a glass or two of red or white wine," he says. "It's not that beer or liquor are better for preventing heart attack."


Denke concurs: "Alcohol itself is the active agent, not the type of drink," she says. "The grape skins and their antioxidants found in wine are just blips on the radar screen."


Interestingly, the researchers noted a 25% reduced risk in fatal and non-fatal heart attacks among those who increased their daily alcohol consumption an average of about a half-ounce compared with those whose consumption didn't change.


But before following that pattern, Mukamal suggests you talk to your doctor before the barkeep.


"It would appear that frequent moderate drinking, as has been done throughout the world for thousands of years, might help prevent heart attack for many people. But we only looked at heart attack risk, and not the other effects of alcohol -- both positive and negative," he says. "So before making the decision to start drinking or drink more, you need to talk to your physician and consider everything that is going on in your life."
( end of article)

So I am planning on implementing this idea into my daily life as well. Since I already enjoy a drink or two every once and awhile, and I am also anti-heart attack....then this idea really cant hurt me. However, when it comes to drinking alcohol, remember to keep in in moderation, and no underage drinking. Heres to staying healthy!

....staving off a coronary....

posted by Justin at 1:51 AM

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