Moderate Alcohol Consumption in Middle Age Can Lower Cardiac Risk

New study published in The American Journal of Medicine

New York, March 7, 2008 - Previous studies have pointed out the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption as a factor in lowering cardiovascular risk. In a study conducted by the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina and published in the March 2008 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers found that middle-aged non-drinkers who began consuming moderate amounts of alcohol saw an immediate benefit of lower cardiac disease morbidity with no change in mortality after four years.

Studying 7,697 people between 45 and 64 who were non-drinkers and who were participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study over a 10 year period, the authors found that 6% began moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink per day or fewer for women and 2 drinks per day or fewer for men) during the follow-up period. After 4 years of follow-up, new moderate drinkers had a 38% lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease than did their non-drinking counterparts. Even after adjusting for physical activity, Body Mass Index, demographic and cardiac risk factors, this difference persisted.

The study also identified a subset of new drinkers who consumed only wine. When comparing non-drinkers to wine-only drinkers, drinkers of other types of alcohol, and heavy drinkers, the wine-only drinkers had the most significant reduction in cardiovascular events. Drinkers of other types of alcohol also had an advantage over non-drinkers, but the difference did not reach statistical significance.

Writing in the article, Dana E. King, MD, MS, states, “A substantial cardiovascular benefit from adopting moderate alcohol drinking in middle age appears supported by the current study. Any such benefit must be weighed with caution against the known ill consequences of alcohol consumption. While caution is clearly warranted, the current study demonstrated that new moderate drinking lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease without an increase in mortality in a four-year follow up period. The findings suggest that, for carefully selected individuals, a ‘heart healthy diet’ may include limited alcohol consumption even among individuals who have not included alcohol previously.”

The article is “Adopting Moderate Alcohol Consumption in Middle-age: Subsequent Cardiovascular Events” by Dana E. King MD MS, Arch G. Mainous III PhD, and Mark E. Geesey MS, and it appears in The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 121, Issue 3 (March 2008) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article featured above is available upon request. Contact ajmmedia@elsevier.com to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview contact Heather Woolwine, MUSC Media Relations Director, (843) 792 7669, woolwinh@musc.edu.

About the American Journal of Medicine
The American Journal of Medicine, known as the “Green Journal,” is one of the oldest and most prestigious general internal medicine journals published in the United States. AJM, the official journal of The Association of Professors of Medicine, a group comprised of chairs of departments of internal medicine at 125-plus U.S. medical schools, publishes peer-reviewed, original scientific studies that have direct clinical significance. The information contained in this article in The American Journal of Medicine is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional. AJM is published by Elsevier.

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