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A Beer A Day Keeps the Doctor Away? Moderate Drinking May Mean Fewer Heart Problems

This was indeed the conclusion reached in a large-scale study from the University of Cambridge and University College London, wherein researchers found that moderate drinking may be linked with a reduced risk of developing numerous serious heart conditions.  

After looking at electronic health records for almost two million healthy adults in the United Kingdom, researchers found that moderate drinkers (those who consumed no more than around 14 units of alcohol per week) were less likely than heavy drinkers and teetotallers to see a doctor for several conditions including heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots.

“In terms of biology, people who drink in moderation tend to have lower levels of inflammation, or higher levels of good cholesterol,” head researcher Steven Bell told The Independent.

“But some people would say these people just tend to be more healthy and socially engaged, and that’s leading to lower levels of different types of heart disease than the drinking itself.”

Bell said the study of 1.93 million adults, published in the British Medical Journal, was “larger than all previous studies when pooled together.” It isn’t the first study, however, to link drinking alcohol within recommended limits to a reduced risk of heart disease.

“We linked databases containing patients’ alcohol consumption recorded by GP or practice nurses to disease and test registries,” he said. “One of the advantages of doing this is we were able to create a dataset representative of the general population, at a much larger scale than previous studies.”

The researchers used the data to analyze the association between alcohol consumption and 12 different heart conditions. Compared to moderate drinkers, those who drank more than the recommended weekly alcohol intake had an increased risk of most of the conditions, but had a lower risk of heart attack and angina.  

Abstaining from alcohol, on the other hand, was linked to increased risk of unstable angina, heart attack, sudden coronary death, heart failure, stroke caused by loss of blood flow, abdominal aneurysm and peripheral arterial disease.

Bell stressed, however, that these findings shouldn’t be taken by non-drinkers as a reason to start drinking, as there are safer and more effective ways of lowering heart disease risk (a healthy diet, for example.)

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health said the study “sets the stage for ever larger and more sophisticated studies that will attempt to harness the flood of big data into a stream of useful, reliable, and unbiased findings.”

When it comes down to it, of course, this is all just a long-winded way of saying: cheers!

h/t The Independent


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