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01.2008

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedHealth

The GOOD VERSUS the BAD

Article By: MBB

TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK . . . that is the question. There's a fine line to walk between health benefits from alcohol and health detriments from consumption. In the latest news, a large new Japanese study suggests that middle-aged men who drink heavily could see their blood pressure rise, regardless of whether their levels of "good" cholesterol also go up. Study author Ichiro Wakabayashi also found that the older men who participated - all in their 5Os - were more susceptible to the blood pressure-boosting effects of heavy drinking than younger men. While there are signs that drinking can be good for the heart and boost good cholesterol levels, "this emphasizes that alcohol is not for everyone," said Kenneth Mukamal, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who is familiar with the study findings. "This really fits well with the observation that the risk of stroke - which is more sensitive to blood pressure than heart attack - is not really substantially lower in moderate drinkers," Mukamal said. According to him, an increase in blood pressure might eliminate any benefit from higher levels of good cholesterol. Wakabayashi, of the Hyogo College of Medicine in Japan, launched the study to explore whether high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol - which is thought to protect the heart from disease - might play a role in how drinking affects blood pressure in men. He looked at two groups, one 2O- to 29-years-old and the other 5O to 59 - 21,3O1 subjects in all. Young drinkers with low HDL cholesterol levels were no more likely to have high blood pressure than were nondrinkers with similar cholesterol levels. However, young men who drank heavily and had higher levels of HDL were more likely than nondrinkers were to have high blood pressure, suggesting that the "good" cholesterol did not stop the bad effects of drinking. When looking at men of all ages, those with the lowest level of good cholesterol had the highest blood pressure in all three roups: nondrinkers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. However, high levels of good cholesterol did not do as much for the heavy drinkers. Among older men, blood pressure was "significantly higher" in both light and heavy drinkers, regardless of their cholesterol levels. The findings appeared in the journal alcoholism: clinical and experimental research.

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