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Moderate Drinkers' Health Better Than Non-Drinkers'

But researchers caution that moderate consumption may be marker of good health, not a cause

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate drinkers have a better health status than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers, but moderate alcohol consumption may be a marker, rather than a cause, of this status, according to research published May 19 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Boris Hansel, M.D., of Hôpital de la Pitié in Paris, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of 149,773 patients undergoing evaluation at the Center for CVD Prevention, stratifying them into four groups sorted by alcohol consumption. They were evaluated for clinical and biological characteristics, including cardiovascular risk factors and overall health status.

The researchers found that those who described themselves as moderate drinkers (10 to 30 g of alcohol/day) were more likely to have characteristics associated with lower cardiovascular risk than did heavy drinkers or non-drinkers. The moderate-drinking men had a lower body mass index, heart rate, pulse pressure, fasting triglycerides, fasting glucose, and depression scores, as well as superior subjective health status, social status, respiratory function and physical activity, while the women had lower waist measurement, blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and fasting triglycerides. Both genders had increases in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

"Rather than a beneficial effect of alcohol consumption on classic or emerging cardiovascular risk factors, we must hypothesize that moderate drinking is a marker of a higher social level, superior general health status and lower cardiovascular risk. Future epidemiological studies assessing the relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular disease should cautiously select the co-variates for the multivariate analysis. Our data suggest that it is clearly premature to promote alcohol consumption as the basis of cardiovascular protection until such time as the causal role of alcohol in cardioprotection is fully proven," the authors write.

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