To drink, or not to drink? That is a question. The answer is “to drink”, but if only you are a man. The study showed that regular drinking is a very effective way of preventing a coronary, unless you are a woman.
Men who drink alcohol every day have a lower risk of heart disease than those who drink once a week or less, a study found. But for women, a weekly drink is as effective as a daily one; there is no gain from more frequent drinking. It is well known that moderate drinking protects against heart disease but most research has been done on men.
Researchers compared the impact of alcohol on heart disease in more than 50,000 men and women. They found women who used to drink at least one day a week had a 36 per cent reduced risk of heart disease than those who drank less frequently or not at all, about the same as those who drank every day. But the risks for men declined with increased frequency of drinking. Those who used to drink one day a week had a 7 per cent reduced risk and those who drank daily cut their risk by 41 per cent.
The researchers published their findings in the British Medical Journal. The study was done in Denmark on 28,000 women and 25,000 men aged from 50 to 65. The women had an average of five and a half drinks a week, half the amount the men had.
An editorial in the BMJ warned that the participants were middle-aged and at higher risk of heart disease, extremes of drinking may not have been captured and the observational nature of the study meant other explanations were possible, independent.co.uk reports.
However the researchers emphasised that the benefits of alcohol on coronary heart disease are 'by far exceeded' by the harmful effects of heavy alcohol drinking. They said that their findings should be viewed in this context when giving public health advice.
The Department of Health recommends that men drink no more than 21 'standard drinks' per week and women drink no more than 14. These should be spread out over the course of the week. A 'standard drink' is equivalent to one half pint of beer, one glass of wine or one pub measure of spirits, irishhealth.com says.
Epidemiologist Dr Annie Britton, a senior lecturer at University College London, said: "People choose to drink alcohol for all sorts of reasons, from toasting the happy couple to drowning sorrows and numbing pain. Few people choose to drink primarily to reduce their risk of coronary heart disease.
"I can hear the corks popping already, but before pouring the next glass and at the risk of being a wet — or should that be dry — blanket, it is worth bearing several caveats in mind."
She warned the Danish participants were middle aged and so presumably at a greater risk of heart disease, the low response rate also means that extremes of drinking may not have been captured and finally, the nature of this report, an observational study, may make it prone to other explanations for the findings, lse.co.uk.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik