SUNDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate drinking may be
good for your health -- better, in fact, than not drinking at all,
according to a trio of studies presented Sunday at the American
Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago.
Not only did male coronary bypass patients fare better with a
little alcohol, but women's health was also boosted by a cocktail
now and then.
Still, while the studies are "reassuring," they should not be
seen as "a cause for action or change of patterns," said Dr.
Sharonne Hayes, a cardiologist and director of the Women's Heart
Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "We do have to be
cautious. This is not [shown to be] a cause-and-effect
Men who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) to
circumvent clogged arteries who drank two to three alcoholic
beverages a day had a 25 percent lower risk of having to undergo
another procedure or suffering a heart attack, stroke or even
dying, compared to teetotalers, researchers found.
Too much alcohol appear to have a negative effect, however: Men
with left ventricular dysfunction (problems with the heart's
pumping mechanism) who drank more than six drinks a day had double
the risk of dying from a heart problem compared with people who
didn't drink at all.
"A light amount of alcohol intake, about two drinks a day, should not be discouraged in [male] patients undergoing CABG, but the benefit is less evident in patients with severe pump dysfunction," said study lead author Dr. Umberto Benedetto, of the University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy, who spoke Sunday during a news conference at the meeting.
Light-to-moderate drinking for women is defined as about one
glass a day and, for men, two glasses daily.
The so-called BACCO (Bypass surgery, Alcohol Consumption on
Clinical Outcomes) study, named for Bacchus, the Roman god of wine,
followed 2,000 bypass patients (about 80 percent men and 20 percent
women) for three-and-a-half years.
"What the study does say is that people who drink a lot, just as we've seen before, increase their risk, and particularly because we know that alcohol directly affects heart pumping function. It decreases contraction of heart muscle," Hayes said.
Benedetto said the study results need to be confirmed over a
longer follow-up period, with more patients and control
A second study presented Sunday found that for women, the
benefit of one libation a day came in the form of lowered stroke
"Low levels of alcohol may be slightly protective," Hayes said. "It's not strong enough to tell people to drink. But it is reassuring that people who do drink do not increase their risk of stroke."
Other research presented Sunday found that women's overall
health also benefited from light-to-moderate drinking of
Among almost 14,000 nurses participating in the U.S.
government-funded Nurses Health Study, women who drank moderately
at mid-life were more likely to be healthy at 70, meaning no major
chronic diseases or physical disabilities and no dementia.
Not surprisingly, women who drank regularly (though still modest
amounts) were more likely to have "successful survival" than binge
drinkers or even people who only drank now and then, the study
"If you like a glass of wine every night with your dinner when you're in your 40s, that might be associated with being healthier at 70, not just alive but truly healthier," Hayes said.
But talking to patients about alcohol can be tricky, doctors
"If someone is already drinking a modest amount of alcohol -- one glass a day for women and up to two a day for men -- I don't discourage them or talk them out of drinking because it seems like there may be some benefit and little harm at those doses," said Dr. Erin D. Michos, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "For those who don't drink I don't encourage them to take up alcohol."
Added Dr. Russell V. Luepker, Mayo professor of epidemiology and
community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public
Health and a spokesman for the American Heart Association:
"American Heart Association policy is not to encourage drinking. No
one has ever found that high alcohol intake is good for you."
Both Michos and Luepker also spoke at the Sunday news
American Heart Association has recommendations on