Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Fact or Fiction?

Fact or Fiction?

Wine is the only alcohol that's beneficial to heart health, helping to increase the good or "healthy" HDL cholesterol and helping to reduce the formation of blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.


All alcohol, not just the alcohol in wine, has these benefits. Red or white wine, beer, hard alcohol, cordials all have the same effect on cardiovascular disease. Drinking pattern is actually more important than type of alcohol.

Men who have 1-2 alcoholic drinks a day were found to have a 30-40% lower risk of heart attacks compared to men who didn't drink at all. Although more than 2 drinks a day has been associated with further heart and stroke protection, it has also been associated with increased mortality due to accidents, liver disease and other causes and it's not recommended.

For women, it's trickier. Women benefit from alcohol's ability to increase the good HDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke but data from the Nurse's Health Study found that women who drank 2 alcoholic drinks a day had a higher risk of breast cancer- 20-25% higher (so the current average risk of developing breast cancer in the US is 12 out of 100 women but was 14-15 out of 100 for women that drank more alcohol).

The research shows that the link between breast cancer and alcohol intake was seen in women who didn't get enough folic acid and other B vitamins from their diet.

So, if you don't drink alcohol now, you don't have to start (the same benefits can be achieved by exercising!) but if you're a man with a history of heart disease, you may benefit from 1-2 standard alcoholic drinks* a day (of any type of alcoholic beverage). If you're a woman, the benefits of alcohol may be offset by an increased risk of breast cancer. Make sure you get enough folic acid in your diet (whole grains, dark leafy greens, beans and lentils).

Always talk to your doctor about your alcohol intake.

*What's a standard drink?

5oz wine (12% alcohol), 1 12-oz (360mL) beer (5% alcohol), 1.5oz spirits (40% alcohol).


Willett, WC. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. Free Press 2005.
European Cancer Conference. "Alcohol Amount, Not Type -- Wine, Beer, Liquor -- Triggers Breast Cancer." ScienceDaily 28 September 2007. 23 April 2008 /releases/2007/09/070927083251.htm>.


Jme said...

as if i needed another reason to drink...

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Remember... moderation!!