Health in a Bottle?
Moderate drinking may be beneficial to your heart.
The Arguments for Alcohol continued...
The French, the world's greatest wine connoisseurs, presented even better
news in a 1998 issue of the journal Epidemiology: In a five-year study
in France, people who drank two to five glasses of wine a day had up to 31%
less risk of death from any cause than nondrinkers.
The benefits may go beyond the heart. In a study of 3,072 men and women
published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society in January
1998, researchers at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., found that
moderate wine drinkers are 14% less likely than nondrinkers to develop
age-related macular degeneration, a disease of the retina that can cause
Other research suggests that a daily glass of wine or beer with a meal may
also help lower risk for diabetes. In a six-year Harvard study of more than
41,000 health professionals, the moderate drinkers were almost half as likely
to develop the disease as nondrinkers, according to a March 1995 report in the
British Medical Journal. Another study published in the July 21, 1999
issue of JAMA found that Type 2 diabetics get the same protection as
other people from moderate drinking.
The Downside of Drinking
So why not recommend a glass or two for everyone? First, because not
everyone stands to benefit: Drinking apparently has very little to offer women
in their 20s and 30s, for instance. In findings from the Harvard Nurses Study,
published May 11, 1995, in the New England Journal of Medicine, alcohol
cut heart-disease risk almost in half and lowered overall death rates by 14%,
but mostly for women over 50. That makes sense medically, since women's risk
for heart disease begins to climb steeply only after menopause.
And for people at any age, too much alcohol can cause major health problems.
Excessive imbibing actually increases the danger of heart disease, according to
a report published in the Novartis Foundation Symposium in 1998. Even a
single session of alcohol consumption consistent with legal blood-alcohol
levels may be linked to heart disease, stroke, or cirrhosis, according to a
Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. It can also elevate
blood pressure and cause irregular heartbeat. Serious alcoholism damages the
liver and can lead to liver failure. Overall, an estimated 100,000 people die
every year of alcohol-related causes, according to the federal Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.