A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism review of research studies from at least 20 countries around the world demonstrate a 20- to 40-percent lower coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence among drinkers compared to nondrinkers. It asserts that "The totality of evidence on moderate alcohol and CHD supports a judgment of a cause-effect relationship... There are cardioprotective benefits associated with responsible, moderate alcohol intake."
Harvard researchers have identified the moderate consumption of alcohol as a proven way to reduce coronary heart disease risk.
A study of 18,455 males from the Physicians Health Study revealed that those originally consuming one drink per week or less who increased their consumption up to six drinks per week had a 29% reduction in CVD risk compared to those who did not increase their consumption.Men originally consuming 1-6 drinks per week who increased their consumption moderately had an additional 15% decrease in CVD risk.The Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of over 44,000 men found moderate alcohol consumption to be associated with a 37% reduction in coronary disease.
Medical researchers generally describe moderation as one to three drinks per day. It appears that consuming less than about half a drink per day is associated with only very small health benefits. Four or five drinks may be moderate for large individuals but excessive for small or light people. Because of their generally smaller size and other biological differences, the typical woman should generally consume 25 to 30 percent less than the average man. And, of course, recovering alcoholics, those with any adverse reactions to alcohol, and those advised against drinking by their physicians should abstain.
The benefits of moderate drinking aren’t limited to the heart. In the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and other studies, gallstones and type 2 diabetes were less likely to occur in moderate drinkers than in non-drinkers. The emphasis here, as elsewhere, is on moderate drinking. In a meta-analysis of 15 original prospective cohort studies that followed 369,862 participants for an average of 12 years, no benefit was observed for heavy drinkers who consumed more than 48 grams of alcohol (the equivalent of four drinks) a day. The social and psychological benefits of alcohol can’t be ignored. A drink before a meal can improve digestion or offer a soothing respite at the end of a stressful day; the occasional drink with friends can be a social tonic. These physical and psychic effects may contribute to health and well-being.
A review of the research reports that moderate drinking appears to reduce the risk of numerous diseases. "These include duodenal ulcer, gallstones, entric infections, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes mellitus (type II). Compared with abstainers, moderate drinkers exhibit improved mental status characterized by decreased stress and depression, lower absenteeism from work, and decreased dementia (including Alzheimer's disease)."
Moderate drinking and exercise appear to slow down the health deterioration that occurs with aging, according to a study of about 2,500 people aged 65 and older who were followed regularly for about eight years. Those who drank and exercised regularly had fewer difficulties with their daily activities and physical functioning.
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