Alcohol's Good for You?

"Alcohol's good for your? Some scientists doubt it" is the provocative title of an article in the New York Times. Unfortunately, the piece looked exclusively at epidemiological studies However, epidemiological studies alone can never demonstrate causality. That's why evidence of the mechanisms whereby alcohol improves heart health is so important.

It's been demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption increases HDL (good) cholesterol, reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol, and improves both HDL and LDL particle size. It decreases thrombosis or blood clotting by reducing platelet aggregation, reduces fribrinogen (the blood clotter) and increases fibrinolysis (the process by which clots dissolve).

Alcohol also improves health in other ways such as reducing coronary spasm in response to stress, increases coronary blood flow, reduces arterial plaque, and reduces both C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-C).

A large prospective 10-year study published last year found that middle-aged non-drinkers who began drinking in moderation experienced a 38% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who continued abstaining. Even after adjusting for physical activity, Body Mass Index, demographic and cardiac risk factors, this difference persisted.

This study is important in that it provides more evidence that the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease among moderate drinkers is a result of the alcohol itself rather than any differences in lifestyle, genetics, or other factors.

In addition to improving cardiovascular health, moderate drinking also reduces the risk of a wide range of diseases.

Unless contraindicated by pregnancy, alcoholism or other reasons, drinking in moderation promotes good health and longevity.

Note: This site provides no medical opinion or advice and none should be inferred.

References:

  • Rabin, Roni Caryn. Alcohol's good for your? Some scientists doubt it. New York Times, June 15, 2009.

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