Two glasses of wine a day may not be good for heart

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor 
Published: 02 December 2005

Evidence that drinking two glasses of wine a day is
good for you is misleading, researchers say. 

Conventional medical wisdom has been that moderate
drinking - a pint of beer or a couple of glasses of
wine a day - was good for the heart. But researchers
warned yesterday that the apparent effect was probably
because of other differences between drinkers and
non-drinkers, unrelated to their alcohol consumption.

The belief that drinking is healthy in moderation
stemmed from a paper published in The Lancet in 1979
which first highlighted the protective effect of
alcohol on the heart. But writing in the current issue
of The Lancet, public health experts from New Zealand
cite a large US study published earlier this year of
200,000 adults which found drinkers were healthier
than non-drinkers, independently of their drinking.

Of 30 risk factors for heart disease, 27 were
significantly more common in the non-drinkers. The
lower incidence of heart attacks in the drinkers is
likely to be due to this difference in risk and have
nothing to do with their alcohol consumption. The
authors say, if anything, the evidence is more
compelling for a protective effect on the heart from
heavy drinking. But this is outweighed by the other
damaging effects. In the case of light to moderate
drinking, any protective effect on the heart "will be
very small and unlikely to outweigh the harms".

The authors conclude: "The public health message is
clear: do not assume there is a window in which the
health benefits of alcohol are greater than the harms
- there is probably no free lunch." 


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