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Officials Suppressed Alcohol's Benefits

Fear of abuse stifled message for a decade

Epidemiologists can easily tell you that moderate consumption of alcohol has health benefits. For more than a decade the evidence has overwhelmingly shown that two drinks a day, or less, reduces the risk of heart disease.

Yet the debate over alcohol's benefits continues. A feature from Cleveland's The Plain Dealer quotes researchers who say that alcohol's affect on heart health is clear and grows stronger every year. But the evidence for alcohol's harmful effects also couldn't be clearer: Take more than two alcoholic drinks a day and the health benefits become hazards.

Examples of health officials downplaying alochol's benefits abound. Earlier this year, for example, the American Heart Association dismissed the idea that red wine wards off heart attacks as "unproven," Science Daily reports.

Any discussion of alcohol's possible health benefits should be prefaced by describing the risks of alcohol abuse. "But 70 percent of adults in this country drink and the vast majority do so moderately, not heavily. There is a difference," says cardiologist Arthur Klatsky, who wrote one of the first papers linking alcohol to lowered heart disease.

The chances that alcohol will benefit any individual are also influenced by such other factors as genetics. A wire service story in the Seattle Times explains how one genetic trait enhances the heart benefit.

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