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Study Challenges Notion That Moderate Drinking Protects the Heart
Date:5/19/2010

Higher social status, better overall health could explain the link, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- A major French study links moderate drinking to a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, but challenges the notion that moderate drinking gets the credit.

Instead, the researchers say, people who drink moderately tend to have a higher social status, exercise more, suffer less depression and enjoy superior health overall compared to heavy drinkers and lifetime abstainers.

"A causal relationship between cardiovascular risk and moderate drinking is not at all established" by the study, which looked at the health status and drinking habits of 149,773 French adults, said Dr. Boris Hansel, an endocrinologist at the Hopital de la Pitie in Paris who specializes in cardiovascular prevention. He is the lead author of a report on the study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Men and women who reported their alcohol intake as low or moderate did have a more favorable health status than those who said they never drank and those who reported high alcohol intake. Men who drank moderately were more likely to have a lower body-mass index, lower fasting triglycerides and blood glucose, lower blood pressure, and other factors associated with a lower risk of heart disease, while their female counterparts had smaller waists, lower blood pressure, lower fasting triglycerides, and lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.

And the study found a "strong and constant" link between moderate drinking in both sexes and high levels of HDL cholesterol, the "good" kind that helps keep arteries clear of fat.

But data on the overall lifestyle of people in the study indicate that "there is no link between the increased level of HDL cholesterol and reduced cardiovascular risk," Hansel noted.

"The relationship between moderate drinking and lower cardiovascular risk is due to confounding fac
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