WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
May 19, 2010 -- People who drink alcohol in low or moderate amounts are healthier on average than teetotalers, European researchers say.
Researchers led by Boris Hansel, MD, of the Hopital de la Pitie in Paris, studied 149,773 people at the Center for CVD Prevention. The study participants were divided into four groups, based on how they described their daily drinking habits:
Ten grams roughly equals one alcoholic drink, according to the study.
The researchers found that low and moderate drinkers among both men and women were in better health than those who never drink. They also were in better overall health, the researchers say, than people who identified themselves as heavy drinkers.
The low and moderate drinkers also scored higher than nondrinkers on subjective health measures, such as physical activity and respiratory function.
Alcohol intake for men and women was strongly associated with increased concentrations of HDL "good" cholesterol. But the researchers say they could not determine whether the influence of alcohol on HDL had a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.
The moderate male drinkers were more likely to have lower cardiovascular risk, a reduced heart rate, less stress and depression, and a lower body mass index than nondrinkers.
Moderate female drinkers had lower blood pressure and smaller waist and hip circumferences than nondrinkers, according to the study.
Another finding suggests that moderate alcohol consumption is an indicator of optimal social status, which the researchers say could explain why people who drink alcohol in low or moderate amounts are healthier than nondrinkers.
Among other general findings:
The researchers conclude that drinking alcohol is strongly associated with factors favoring "a superior overall health status and a lower risk of [cardiovascular disease] in moderate alcohol drinkers" compared with people who said they had never drank alcohol.
The researchers write that moderate drinking of alcohol is a "powerful general indicator of optimal social status."
They also say future research is needed to verify their findings.
The study is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
SOURCES:News release, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.Hansel, B. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2010.
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