Alcohol cuts heart disease risk
2009-11-19 22:10 Original article on news24.com
Paris - Men who drink alcohol every day see a nearly one-third average reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, according to a long-term study among Spanish men published on Thursday.
The research unfolded over a decade among more than 41 000 men and women aged between 29 and 69, who were assessed for their health and lifestyle as part of a European probe into cancer.
During the course of the study, 609 cases of heart attacks and other "coronary events" happened, 481 among men and 128 among women.
Among men, those drinking moderate, high and very high levels of alcohol all had a lower risk of coronary heart disease compared with non-drinkers.
For those classified as former drinkers, the risk was 10% lower; for those drinking little (0.5 grammes of alcohol per day), the risk was 35%; for moderate drinkers (five-30 grammes per day), the risk was 54% lower; and for high (30-90 grammes per day) and very high drinkers (more than 90 grammes per day) it was halved.
By way of comparison, a 285ml glass of heavy beer containing 4.9 percent of alcohol amounts to 11 grammes, while a 180ml glass of wine with 12% alcohol has 17.06 grammes.
'No heavy boozing'
Women also benefitted from alcohol intake, but the effects were not statistically significant, possibly due to lower numbers of "coronary events" in that group.
The type of alcohol consumed did not affect the level of protection.
The paper sheds light on the situation in Spain, which is the world's third largest producer of beer and wine and has the sixth highest per capita consumption of alcohol. But it also has one of the lowest death rates from coronary heart disease in the world.
To anyone tempted to defend heavy boozing as an act of healthiness, the paper also points to the many risks of alcohol abuse, in terms of premature death and disability.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that of the approximately two billion people out of Earth's 6.7 billion who drink alcohol regularly, over 76 million have ill health as a result, the paper says.
The study appears in Heart, a journal of the British Medical Association (BMA). - AFP
Alcohol cuts kidney cancer risk
2007-08-25 13:33 Original article on news24.com
New York - Drinking wine or full-strength beer may lower the risk of developing kidney cancer, according to a report in the British Journal of Cancer.
Dr Alicja Wolk from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, and colleagues investigated the association of different types of alcoholic beverages and of total alcohol consumption with the risk of kidney cancer in a large population-based study in Sweden.
The study involved 855 subjects with kidney cancer and 1204 "controls" without cancer.
They reported their alcohol consumption in terms of standard portion sizes - a glass of beer being 200 milliliters, a glass of wine being 100 mL, and a glass of strong wine or hard liquor equal to 40 mL.
The investigators rated the alcohol content of different beverages: medium-strong beer had 2.8 grams alcohol per 100 g, red wine had 9.9 g per 100 g, and hard liquor 32 g alcohol per 100 g.
Risk 40% lower
The team found that the odds of developing kidney cell cancer was about 40-percent lower among those who consumed 620 g ethanol per month compared to those who did not drink at all.
Drinking more than two glasses of red wine per week was associated with a 40-percent reduction in kidney cell cancer risk compared with drinking no red wine, the investigators observed, and there were similar trends for more than two glasses per week of white wine or strong beer.
In contrast, there was no relation between kidney cell cancer risk and consumption of light beer, medium-strong beer, strong wine, or hard liquor.
"A reduced risk associated with consumption of wine and beer might be due to the phenolics they contain as these possess antioxidant and antimutagenic properties," the authors speculate.
"However, the lower risk that we observed for three different alcoholic beverages and total ethanol intake suggests that alcohol itself rather than a particular type of drink is responsible for the reduction in risk. - Reuters
Finally, a reason to drink
2008-03-08 12:24 original article on news24.com
Washington - People who do not drink alcohol may finally have a reason to start - a study published on Friday shows non-drinkers who begin taking the occasional tipple live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease.
People who started drinking in middle age were 38% less likely to have a heart attack or other serious heart event than abstainers - even if they were overweight, had diabetes, high blood pressure or other heart risks, Dr Dana King of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and colleagues found.
Many studies have shown that light to moderate drinkers are healthier than teetotallers, but every time, the researchers have cautioned that there is no reason for the abstinent to start drinking.
Now there may be, said King. "This study certainly shifts the balance a little bit," King said in a telephone interview.
King's team studied the medical records of 7 697 people between 45 and 64 who began as non-drinkers as part of a larger study.
Over 10 years, 6% of these volunteers began drinking, King's team reported in the American Journal of Medicine.
King said he does not know why some of the volunteers started drinking. "This was a natural experiment," he said.
"Over the next four years we tracked the new drinkers and when we compared them to the persistent non-drinkers, there was a 38% drop in new cardiovascular disease."
The findings held even when the researchers factored in heart disease risks such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, race, education levels, exercise and cholesterol.
Several of the volunteers had more than one risk factor and still benefited from adding alcohol, King said.
Fewer than one percent of people in the study drank more than is recommended, King said.
Recommended amounts equal a drink or two a day by most guidelines.
"Half of them were wine drinkers only. There was a much bigger benefit for wine-only drinkers," he added.
Now King's team has started a new study in which his team will randomly assign non-drinkers to start either having a glass of wine a day, a glass of grape juice, or grape juice spiked with antioxidants, compounds believed to help fight heart disease.
But the findings do not mean people should drink freely, King said.
Another study published this week supports that advice. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that how much and how often people drink affects their risk of death from several causes.
Their study of 44 000 people showed that men who had five or more drinks on days they did drink were 30% more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than men who had just one drink a day - regardless of what their average drinking intake was.
Writing in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the team at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Cancer Institute found that regular, moderate drinking was healthier than having the occasional binge.
Even men who drank every single day of the year were 20% less likely to die of heart disease than men who drank just one to 36 days per year - if they drank moderately.
"Taken together, our results reinforce the importance of drinking in moderation," the researchers wrote.