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A glass of wine to your health

March 28, 2017

There is a new and significant study in the debate over alcohol and health. British researchers followed 1,937,360 people who had no history of cardiovascular disease for six years, then analyzed the correlation between alcohol consumption and first presentation with a set of cardiovascular problems. Participants were divided into non-drinkers, former drinkers, occasional drinkers, moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers. The distinction between non-drinkers and former drinkers alleviates some criticisms of studies past that the relatively worse results for those who abstained confounded harm done by past drinking with the benefit of never drinking. Despite that, for a wide variety of cardiovascular ailments, from heart failure to ischemic stroke, this research found the same U-shaped curve, where moderate drinkers enjoy health benefits relative both to those who don’t drink, and to those who drink heavily.

That benefit also showed for all cause mortality. Which is interesting, given that we know any alcohol consumption raises the risk of some non-cardiovascular diseases, such as esophageal cancer. Alcohol is a carcinogen, a cause of those E mutations discussed in yesterday’s post.

Because the study looked at a variety of specific ailments, there are some other interesting exceptions. I don’t know what to make of the fact that former drinkers but not non-drinkers had a lower risk of subarachnoid hemorrhage. Interestingly, for a couple of categories such as coronary artery disease and aortic aneurism, heavy drinkers enjoyed the same benefit as moderate drinkers. The BMJ article gives a nice graphical presentation of the results, so I recommend reading it, or at least looking at its graphs.

Of course, there is one regard where non-drinkers win. They never have to worry about red wine stains on furniture, floors, or clothing. Fortunately, the drip-free wine bottle may be just around the corner.

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