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Live longer with an occasional drink: Study
Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston | July 25, 2006 17:27 IST
Last Updated: July 25, 2006 18:01 IST
Older adults who consume one to seven alcoholic beverages a week may live longer with reduced risk of cardiac ailments than those who do not drink, according to a latest study.
The study, by a team led by Cinzia Maraldi of the University of Florida, showed that when compared with teetotallers or occasional drinkers, those who drank lightly to moderately had a 26 percent lower risk of death over all and an almost 30 percent lower risk of cardiac events.
The findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
It has also found that light to moderate alcohol intake reduces levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, compounds that circulate in the blood due to inflammation.
The study investigated the relationship between alcohol, death and cardiac events in 2,487 adults without heart disease of the 70-79 age group.
Participants (average age 73.5 years, 55 percent women) were recruited between April 1997 and June 1998. They answered queries about disease diagnoses, medication use and drinking habits during an initial interview.
The participants were classified based on how many drinks they consumed in a typical week over the past year; the categories were former; never or occasional (less than one drink per week); light to moderate (one to seven); and heavier (more than seven).
During the study, each individual was contacted by telephone every six months and had a clinical assessment every year.
Levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in blood were also tested. Almost half of the participants were never or occasional drinkers.
During an average 5.6 years of follow-up, 397 participants died and 383 experienced a cardiac event.
Compared with never or occasional drinkers, those who drank lightly to moderately had a 26 percent lower risk of death over all and an almost 30 percent lower risk of cardiac events, even after controlling for inflammatory markers.
In contrast, heavy drinkers were more likely to die or experience a cardiac event than never or occasional drinkers.
The findings indicate that the anti-inflammatory properties of alcohol alone do not explain the reduced risk of death or cardiovascular disease associated with light to moderate drinking.
Alcohol may have cellular or molecular effects that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, or it may interact with genetic factors to produce a protective effect. The health effects of alcohol may not be the same for everyone, the authors caution.
"The net benefit of light to moderate alcohol consumption may vary as a function of sex, race and background cardiovascular risk," they said.
"From this point of view, recommendations on alcohol consumption should be based, as any medical advice, on a careful evaluation of an individual's risks and benefits, in the context of adequate treatment and control of established cardiovascular risk factors," the study said.