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

tors," he said. "That is because moderate drinking is in large part a matter of higher social status. Social status, a lower level of depression and a higher level of physical activity probably explains the relationship between alcohol and lower cardiovascular risk."

The study is the most recent in a long series that have found lower rates of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular problems in moderate drinkers, as compared to teetotalers and heavy drinkers. Hansel's analysis of the newly reported study, however, challenges the conventional interpretation that moderate drinking is good for the heart.

The American Heart Association's cautious recommendation is that "if you drink, do so in moderation." That means no more than two drinks a day for a man, one drink a day for a women, with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Two U.S. experts disagreed on the interpretations of the French study.

The study does not prove that alcohol itself provides no benefit, said Dr. Arthur Klatsky, a senior consultant in cardiology at the Kaiser Permanente Health program in Oakland, Calif.

"This is yet another study which shows that moderate drinkers have a better health profile," Klatsky said. "We don't have randomized controlled trials, so that always leaves open the possibility that cofounders might be responsible for the cardiovascular benefits."

The health benefits of high HDL cholesterol levels are clearly established, and explain about half the benefits seen in other studies, Klatsky said. Those studies have consistently shown a cardiovascular benefit for moderate drinking in a number of different population groups, he said.

"That is a fairly compelling case that I don't think is destroyed by this kind of evidence," Klatsky said.

Indeed, the French researchers only note that a causal link has not been proven. "Our results cannot eliminate th
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