You’ve heard it before: drinking alcohol in moderation is good for you. But is that really true? According to a new review of 30 years worth of scientific research into the question, yes, about one drink a day is good for your health... heart health, specifically.
Researchers from the University of Calgary made a comprehensive review of the literature, looking at over 80 pieces of scientific research dating back to 1980. What they found was that moderate consumption can help keep heart disease risk in check.
How Much of a Benefit?
The team of researchers published their findings in The British Medical Journal. They concluded that moderate drinkers display a 14-25% reduction in heart disease compared to people who have never drank. Further findings included an increase in HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.
However, experts were quick to point out that this is not a reason to start drinking. "If you don't drink," says Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, "this is not a reason to start. Similar results can be achieved by being physically active and eating a balanced and healthy diet."
Any study of potential health benefits of drinking alcohol brings with it the inevitable slippery slope: How much is enough and how much is too much? This particular review found the “sweet spot” of beneficial moderation to be between 2.5g and 14.9g (about 8g is equivalent to one unit of alcohol or one drink).
That amount showed the most benefit compared to non-drinkers, reducing all forms of cardiovascular disease by up to 25%. But on the other side of that slippery slope, the fall is quick and dangerous. Health risks like cirrhosis of the liver substantially increase with heavier drinking.
“Drinking more than sensible amounts of alcohol does not offer any protection and can cause high blood pressure, stroke... and damage to our heart,” says Ross.
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