Moderate alcohol intake can help older people avoid heart disease, new study finds

People in their 60s and older who drank moderate amounts of alcohol were less likely to suffer from heart disease compared with those who had few or no drinks, according to new research published…

Moderate alcohol intake can help older people avoid heart disease, new study finds

People in their 60s and older who drank moderate amounts of alcohol were less likely to suffer from heart disease compared with those who had few or no drinks, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The research conducted by a team of Harvard University researchers looked at data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which began in 1980 and 1987, respectively. In those early years, researchers identified 16,415 college-educated adults, ranging in age from 22 to 50, and gathered information on their eating habits, physical activity, alcohol intake and signs of cardiovascular disease.

Each year, those respondents were asked whether they had engaged in “moderate consumption” of alcohol. The team examined their health outcomes up to 2004 and found that participants who had a moderate alcohol intake (two to three drinks per day for women, up to three drinks per day for men) had a 47 percent lower risk of heart disease, compared with those who had few or no drinks. Men with the highest alcohol intake (five or more drinks a day) were also less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who consumed no alcohol at all.

“We found that more moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. For many people, five drinks a day is equivalent to two drinks a day. That suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may be safe for the majority of men and women,” lead study author Julie Barrow, an associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

The findings suggest that the association between moderate alcohol consumption and lower heart disease risk may be linked to alcohol’s potential cancer-fighting benefits as well as its ability to reduce inflammation, Barrow said.

Previously, researchers examining data from the Nurses’ Health Study discovered that women who drank one to two daily glasses of wine or beer were 42 percent less likely to develop heart disease than women who did not drink. Men who drank four or five daily glasses of wine or beer were 15 percent less likely to develop heart disease.

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