TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate alcohol
consumption may help protect against heart disease, according to
two new papers by Canadian researchers.
One team at the University of Calgary reviewed 84 studies that
examined alcohol consumption and heart disease, and concluded that
people who drink alcohol in moderation (one drink or less per day)
are 14 percent to 25 percent less likely to develop heart disease
as those who don't drink alcohol.
Another team reviewed 63 studies and found that moderate
consumption of alcohol (which the researchers defined as up to one
drink a day for women, and one to two drinks a day for men)
significantly increases levels of "good" cholesterol, which has a
protective effect against heart disease.
The findings, published online Feb. 22 in the
BMJ, add to evidence from prior studies that found moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
One expert said the research does seem to support the intake of
a little alcohol to help the heart.
"In addressing lifestyle issues, alcohol consumption, in moderation, could be recommended as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The authors of the second paper, also from the University of
Calgary, conclude that it is the alcohol content that provides the
health benefits, not the type of alcoholic beverage (wine, beer or
Steinbaum agreed with that assessment. "One of the mechanisms of
decreasing heart disease is by increasing the HDL ['good'
cholesterol], which is independent of the type of alcohol, whether
it be wine, beer or spirits," she said.
But the researchers on the first paper noted that although
moderate drinking appears to boost heart health, that message needs
to be balanced with the caveat that drinking too much is bad for
Discussions about the impact of alcohol on heart disease should
now focus on "how to integrate this evidence into clinical practice
and public health messages," William Ghali, of the University of
Calgary, noted in a news release from the journal's publisher.
The American Heart Association has more about
alcohol and heart disease.