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Bottoms up! Moderate drinking has considerable health benefits

A report published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reveals that light to moderate drinking can lower the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and all causes. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can significantly increase the risk of mortality from cancer and all causes.

Despite the fact that high alcohol consumption has been linked to a large amount of health issues including cardiovascular disease, moderate alcohol consumption is widely recommended. For this study, the experts analyzed the link between alcohol consumption and risk of mortality from all causes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease in the United States.

The researchers examined data obtained through the National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 to 2009. Over 333,000 participants were surveyed regarding their alcohol consumption levels and patterns.

Alcohol consumption patterns were divided into categories including lifetime abstainers, lifetime infrequent drinkers, former drinkers, and current drinkers. The current drinkers were classified as light, moderate, or heavy drinkers.

Light drinking is constituted by less than three drinks per week. Moderate drinking is

3-14 drinks per week for men and 3-7 drinks per week for women. Heavy drinking is over 14 drinks per week for men or over seven drinks per week for women.

Bo Xi, M.D., is an associate professor at the Shandong University School of Public Health and the lead author of the study.

“Our research shows that light-to-moderate drinking might have some protective effects against cardiovascular disease, while heavy drinking can lead to death. A delicate balance exists between the beneficial and detrimental effects of alcohol consumption, which should be stressed to consumers and patients,” said Xi.

Over the course of the study, 34,754 participants died from all causes. 8,947 of these mortalities were cardiovascular disease-related and 8,427 mortalities were cancer-related.

The researchers found that heavy drinking in males increased the risk of mortality due to all causes by 25 percent and led to a 67 percent higher risk of death from cancer. These increases were not significantly noticed in women, and there was no association found between heavy drinking and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Moderate drinking decreased the risk of all-cause mortality by up to 25 percent, and resulted in up to 34 percent less deaths from cardiovascular disease in both men and women. Light drinking had similar results.

Study co-author Giovanni de Gaetano said that although younger adults should not expect considerable benefit from moderate drinking, “for most older persons, the overall benefits of light drinking, especially the reduced cardiovascular disease risk, clearly outweigh possible cancer risk.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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