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Moderate Drinking Guards the Heart
Date:11/19/2009

much lower risk of heart disease."

The report showing that the source of alcohol made no difference does help puncture one explanation for what has come to be called the "French paradox," the low level of heart disease seen in that country despite consumption of what Americans would describe as an unhealthy, fat-rich diet, Rimm said. Some experts have attributed the paradox to the beneficial effects of red wine.

Instead, it is just alcohol in general, Rimm said. "A number of well-done studies have shown that people who drink have higher levels of HDL cholesterol," he said. "In a week or two of drinking, HDL cholesterol goes up appreciably."

HDL cholesterol is the "good" kind that prevents formation of artery-blocking plaque deposits.

The newly reported study, like all others on the issue of alcohol and the heart, is observational, with no attempt at controlling intake, noted Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"I don't think it's substantially different from what we've seen before," Mukamal said. "We've probably pushed the observational data as far as we can."

So Mukamal has obtained funding from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for a pilot project to determine if a controlled trial of the effects of alcohol on the heart is possible. He and his colleagues are enrolling 40 adults who will try to drink exact amounts of either alcohol or an alcohol-free beverage daily for six months.

"We're hoping to see over time what differences there are in those assigned to the nonalcoholic and those assigned to the alcoholic beverages," Mukamal said. Most important, the study will show whether people can stick to such a regimen for a prolonged period. Results of the pilot project should be available in about a year, Mukamal said, and those results will help determine whether a longer, lar
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