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Light Drinking Good for the Heart
Date:3/22/2010

Two studies confirm previous evidence that it reduces mortality

MONDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Two major studies confirm the current medical consensus that moderate drinking appears to be good for the heart but heavy drinking is bad for health in general.

"This would not change our current guidelines, which provide an upper limit and not a lower limit, no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women," said Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is lead author of one of the reports published online March 23 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The new study, using data from nine National Health Interview Surveys done between 1987 and 2000, is more thorough than previous reports and provides "some of the strongest evidence to date" of a link between moderate drinking and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Mukamal said.

Specifically, the study tries to separate out the health effects of people who list themselves as abstainers, some of whom have never touched the stuff and others who were heavy drinkers but gave it up because of possible damage to their health.

"Some studies have done better than others at that, but this is by far the largest effort to do it," Mukamal said. "We have data on more than 2 million person-years, appropriately weighted so that it is representative of Americans over the last 20 years."

The study looked specifically at deaths from cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke. It found a lower rate of such deaths in light and moderate drinkers than among people who never drank or quit. The type of alcoholic beverage -- beer, wine, liquor -- made no difference.

"Indeed, the lowest rate of cardiovascular mortality was among those who drink moderately," Mukamal said. "That benefit i
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