Cheers! Moderate Drinking May Help Prevent Blood Clots
April 26, 2000 -- As with food and exercise, moderation is key to reaping
the benefits of drinking alcohol. And, yes, there are benefits. Studies have
shown men and women, middle-aged or older who have one or two drinks per day
have lower death rates from heart disease than both teetotalers and those who
drink three drinks or more a day. Part of the reason is that alcohol seems to
increase the concentration of heart-healthy HDL (or "good")
cholesterol. Another benefit, according to a new study, is that a moderate
amount of alcohol acts as a kind of blood thinner.
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.,
discovered that the alcohol equivalent of two drinks decreases the clumping
together of platelets, cells that are essential to blood clotting. This is
important because the formation of a blood clot that blocks an artery leading
to the heart is the triggering event in a heart attack.
This new research may also partially explain the so-called French paradox,
which is the fact the French have less heart disease than Americans, despite
the fact that they eat high-fat foods. Ingredients in red wine, which the
French also enjoy as part of their culture, are thought to be partially
"Whether it's red wine or alcohol has not really been addressed,"
Adam K. Myers, PhD, tells WebMD. He adds that it may be an effect of alcohol
mixed with the substances found in grapes.
Myers and his colleagues also found that these effects of alcohol on blood
clotting were greater in women than men. "The differences between men and
women really is a surprise, and it's going to be an important issue to think
about in the future," Myers explains, adding that scientists need to be
aware that there may be gender and racial differences in people's responses to
The participants in the study were given enough grain alcohol mixed in a
soft drink to equal either one or two drinks of alcohol. Their blood was then
drawn one hour after the drink to test the alcohol level in the body and to see
what effects there were on blood clotting. One drink did not have a significant
effect, but the higher dose prevented the platelets from sticking together and
clotting. Whether the effect would last is unknown. Myers says they were only
looking at a single dose of alcohol, and any effects after this point will need
further study. He is professor and director of graduate studies in the
department of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical
Myers is not suggesting that people who don't drink should start, but, he
says, from the point of view of protecting against heart disease, "I would
suggest that moderate drinking ? and no binge drinking ? is probably not
harmful. I would not leap to conclusions about any particular beneficial effect
of drinking in general or drinking any specific type of beverage."