Apr 19, 2005 - Two new health studies released this week can be confusing enough to cause you to reach for a beer. It appears that while moderate drinking may be part of a healthy lifestyle, the alcohol itself might not be why you are healthier. And it seems that while red wine might be good for you, it's no better for your blood pressure than beer.
- The government warned that a few drinks a day may not protect against strokes and heart attacks after all. Some studies in recent years have touted the health benefits of moderate drinking. But researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from 250,000 Americans who participated in a 2003 telephone survey. They found that the nondrinkers had many more risks for heart disease -- such as being overweight, inactive, high blood pressure and diabetes -- than the moderate drinkers.
Moderate drinkers tended to be in better health, better educated, wealthier and more active than their nondrinking counterparts, and that likely influenced their lower risk of heart disease, the study said. "It appears that moderate drinkers have many social and lifestyle characteristics that favor their survival over nondrinkers and few of these differences are likely due to alcohol consumption itself," the study said.
- People at risk of high blood pressure should not switch to red wine in the hope of being able to drink more, researchers in Australia reported. "A positive relationship between alcohol consumption and blood pressure is well established, but the relative effect of specific alcoholic beverages is controversial," said Renate Zilkens of the University of Western Australia, who led the study.
Some drinkers may have hoped that red wine's antioxidant compounds could counteract the effects of alcohol in raising blood pressure. Beer also increased the sleeping heart rate by five beats a minute on average while wine made it go up by more than four beats a minute. "The advice to drinking men 'at risk' of hypertension and those with hypertension is to drink less than two drinks per day," said Zilkens. "At that level they will still benefit from the HDL ('good') cholesterol-raising effect and anti-coagulant properties of alcohol which are considered to be protective of the heart."