Massachusetts Beverage Business



Great news for women who enjoy a glass of wine – it’s probably okay to have two! For years, women have been confined by the guideline of a single daily drink while men are allotted two. But a new study has found that women who have an alcoholic drink or two a day in midlife turn out to be healthier overall in their old age. Previous research has pointed to health benefits for men and women with regular alcohol use, including lower risk of heart problems. But because of concerns about excess drinking, the American Heart Association and other groups recommend women don’t exceed one drink per day while for men the recommendation is two drinks. The group also doesn’t advocate that non-drinkers start drinking. The new research, presented at the Association’s annual meeting in Chicago in November, suggests women might not have to limit themselves to the one-drink-a-day guideline. Another study presented at the conference showed that women who had a daily drink had a lower risk of stroke. Doctors warn that the alcohol guidelines aren’t cumulative so that people can’t safely save up to have several drinks on a weekend, for example. They also underline that drinking too much can cause liver problems. And some studies have suggested an elevated breast-cancer risk in women even with moderate alcohol consumption. Both studies, by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University, used data from the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, which started in 1976 and involves more than 2OO,OOO women. Dr. Qi Sun, a Harvard medical instructor, looked at nearly 14,OOO women who had survived to age 7O. Dr. Sun said he found that 1499 of the women were free of major diseases like cancer and heart disease and had no physical impairments or memory problems. He looked at the amount of drinking these women had done at midlife, or about age 58-years-old on average. Women who reported having one to two drinks most days of the week had a 28% increase in the chance of “successfully surviving” to at least age 7O compared with non-drinkers. Like other studies, Dr. Sun found women drinking most days of the week were more likely to be healthier than women who drank one or two days a week.
“You could argue this is a little more than the US guidelines,” Dr. Sun said. Still, he pointed out that walking 3O minutes a day provides more health benefits than does drinking. Studies that rely on participants to self-report behavior such as drinking can be open to exaggeration or faulty memory. But during the years of the Nurses’ Health Study, detailed data on food and alcohol consumption were collected at regular intervals.
The research into stroke risk looked at 73,45O women who were free of heart disease and cancer when they entered the study. They were followed from 1984 to 2OO6. Women who had up to one drink a day had a 2O% reduction in stroke risk compared with non-drinkers. There was no impact on stroke risk among most women who drank larger amounts, such as two or three drinks daily. But women who were also on hormone-replacement therapy and who had two drinks a day had an increased stroke risk. A third study presented at the conference by researchers at the University of Rome in La Sapienza, Italy, showed that two to three drinks daily among male heart-bypass-surgery patients was associated with a 25% decline in the rate of subsequent cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and strokes compared to non-drinkers. But the risk of dying increased among people who had four or more drinks daily and had a particular heart problem affecting the left ventricle. The study involved more than 1OOO patients followed for about 3.5 years. Women who had about two drinks daily also had fewer cardiovascular problems after bypass surgery but the benefit was smaller than seen in men. The researchers said many patients had wondered if they should stop drinking after bypass surgery so a study was designed to look at clinical outcomes among drinkers and non-drinkers.

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