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Alcohol vs. Lifestyle

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Alcohol vs. Lifestyle

Why drink to reduce the risk of heart disease? Wouldn't eating a good diet, exercising, and losing weight do the same thing?

No, it wouldn't. The moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be more effective than most other lifestyle changes that are used to lower the risk of heart and other diseases. For example, the average person would need to follow a very strict low-fat diet, exercise vigorously on a regular basis, eliminate salt from the diet, lose a substantial amount of weight, and probably begin medication in order to lower cholesterol by 30 points or blood pressure by 20 points.

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But medical research suggests that alcohol can have a greater impact on heart disease than even these hard-won reductions in cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Only cessation of smoking is more effective. Additionally, other medical research suggests that adding alcohol to a healthful diet is more effective than just following the diet alone.


Moderate drinkers tend to live longer than those who either abstain or drink heavily.

• The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that the lowest death rate from all causes occurs at the level of one to two drinks each day.

• Drinking alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks per day for women and 2-4 for men) was found to reduce risk of mortality significantly according to meta-analysis of 34 studies of alcohol and total mortality among 1,015,835 men and women around the world.

• An exhaustive review of all major heart disease studies found that "Alcohol consumption is related to total mortality in a U-shaped manner, where moderate consumers have a reduced total mortality compared with total non-consumers and heavy consumers."

• A Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared with abstainers.

• A large-scale study in China found that middle-aged men who drank moderately had a nearly 20% lower overall mortality compared with abstainers.

• Harvard's Nurses' Health Study of over 85,000 women found reduced mortality among moderate drinkers.

• A British analysis of 12,000 male physicians found that moderate drinkers had the lowest risk of death from all causes during the 13 year study.

• A large study of about 88,000 people conducted over a period of ten years found that moderate drinkers were about 27% less likely to die during the period than were either abstainers or heavy drinkers. The superior longevity was largely due to a reduction of such diseases as coronary heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases.

• A twelve year long prospective study of over 200,000 men found that subjects who had consumed alcohol in moderation were less likely to die during that period than those who abstained from alcohol

• A study of more than 40,000 people by the Cancer Research Center in Honolulu found that "persons with moderate alcohol intake appear to have a significantly lower risk of dying than nondrinkers."An analysis of the 89,299 men in the Physicians' Health Study over a period of five and one-half years found that those who drink alcohol in moderation tend to live longer than those who either abstain or drink heavily.

• An Italian study of 1,536 men aged 45-65 found that about two years of life were gained by moderate drinkers (1-4 drinks per day) in comparison with occasional and heavy drinkers.

• A study of 2,487 adults aged 70-79 years, who were followed for an average period of over five and one-half years, found that all-cause mortality was significantly lower in light to moderate drinkers than in abstainers or occasional drinkers (those who drank less than one drink per week).

• A large prospective study found that older men consuming up to about three drinks per day and older women consuming over one drink per day had a dramatically lower risk of dying than did non-drinkers.

• A large study found that moderate drinkers, even after controlling for or adjusting for numerous factors, maintain their high longevity or life survival advantage over alcohol abstainers.

• A Danish study of about 12,000 men and women over a period of 20 years found that abstaining from moderate alcohol consumption is a health and longevity risk factor. Choosing not to drink alcohol increases the risk of illness, disease and death.

• A 14-year study of nearly 3,000 residents of an Australian community found that abstainers were twice as likely to enter a nursing home as people who were moderate drinkers. Drinkers also spent less time in hospitals and were less likely to die during the period of the study.

• A prospective study of middle-aged Chinese men found that the consumption of two drinks per day was associated with a 19% reduction in mortality risk. This protective effect was not restricted to a specific type of alcoholic drink.

• Alcohol prevents more deaths than its abuse causes in the United Kingdom, according to research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

• Scientists at the University of London concluded that light and moderate drinking saves more lives in England and Wales than are lost through the abuse of alcohol. If everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher.

• The Cancer Council of New South Wales concludes that "If the net effect of total alcohol consumption on Australian society is considered, there is a net saving of lives due to the protective effect of low levels of consumption on cardiovascular disease."



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