Light Drinking Is Good for You

Light Drinking Is Good for You
The French have the lowest rate of heart disease in the world, yet eat diets high in saturated fats— a phenomenon known as the French paradox. They eat four times more butter, 60 percent more cheese and nearly four times more pork than Americans, yet we have four times more heart attacks. This oddity was first noted in 1819 by Dr. Samuel Black and has perplexed scientists ever since. The French may have healthier hearts because they drink more alcohol— particularly red wine. At least 20 studies linked moderate alcohol consumption to improved cardiovascular health. University of Florida researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption, particularly in men, reduced the risk of heart disease by 30 percent to 40 percent. Drinkers were less likely to die from any cause. Alcohol may enhance health by decreasing inflammation, which is linked to poor blood vessel function. Alcohol worked best in men who had high markers of inflammation at the beginning of the study. According to the study, to get the health benefits from alcohol, women should consume one drink per day, while men should have two drinks. The beneficial effects of alcohol consumption may be overshadowed by its effects on domestic violence, drunk driving and antisocial behavior. (Archives Internal Medicine, 166:1490-1497, 2006)

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