One beer or wine a day could be good for your heart, study finds

A new study reveals that consuming just one glass of beer or wine per day can drastically reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and lower your risk of death overall.

Excessive alcohol consumption has long been regarded as a leading contributor to disease and death around the world.

But in a surprising new paper, scientists from Monash University have shown that when it comes to cardiovascular disease (CVD), consuming alcohol (in moderation) may actually be beneficial.

The study looked at more than 18,000 people in Australia and the US with a median age of 74. Participants did not have prior CVD events, diagnosed dementia or any physical disability that significantly limited movement.

Read: Older Australians more likely to abuse alcohol, study finds

Alcohol intake was calculated in grams per week and participants were followed for an average of 4.7 years. Around 20 per cent of participants reported not drinking at all; around 70 per cent drank between 1 and 150g per week and around 10 per cent consumed more than 150g.

For reference, a standard drink in Australia is any drink that contains 10g of alcohol.

The results showed there was a reduced risk of CVD events for individuals consuming more than 50g alcohol per week compared to not drinking at all. Consuming 51–100g per week was also associated with a reduced risk of mortality from any cause.

Lead author of the study Dr Johannes Neumann says the findings need to be interpreted with caution, as study participants were all initially healthy without prior CVD or other severe diseases. The study specifically excluded people who had stopped drinking alcohol for health reasons, which may have introduced a bias to the results.

The study has attracted criticism from health experts. Addiction specialist Professor Andy Towers told The Guardian the study used outdated collection methods that didn’t take into account many other factors, such as a person’s socio-economic status.

Read: Drinking wine may help protect you from cataracts

“Generally, people who drink moderately are also people who are richer, have better houses, have better jobs, have better education and can – as a result – afford better lifestyles that support better health,” Prof. Towers says.

“Basically, saying that moderate drinking causes better health is just as nonsensical as saying that having a Ferrari causes better health. It’s not the drinking causing better health – both health and the tendency to drink moderate amounts are reflective of middle-class lifestyles.”

Rates of problem drinking among older Australians are at an all-time high. Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that people aged 70 and over continued to be the most likely to drink daily, followed by people in their 60s and 50s.

The results also seem to go against the Heart Foundation’s position on alcohol and CVD.

Read: Being overweight can worsen the liver damage caused by alcohol

“The mechanisms by which alcohol affects cardiovascular disease risk have been extensively researched but are varied and have not been fully elucidated by researchers,” the foundation says.

“The Heart Foundation recommends that people with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease limit alcohol consumption as per the NHMRC recommendations for the general population, noting for some people (such as those with atrial fibrillation) it will be safest to not drink at all.”

How much alcohol do you consume per week? Has it had any effect on your health? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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