One of the values you've heard me preach is the importance of telling yourself it's OK to occasionally indulge the things you enjoy. In moderation, many of the foods and behaviors commonly held to be bad for you can in fact be quite healthy. Dark chocolate and the richness of antioxidants you get from eating it is one of my personal favorites. Having an alcoholic beverage now and then is another.
Though any discussion of alcohol starts and ends with a reminder to drink responsibly and in moderation, it's important to understand that alcohol does provide certain health benefits. In this blog post I'll report on some of the new research that reinforces the "science of healthy imbibing."
With holiday parties just around the corner, it's nice to know you can feel a little less guilty sharing a wine or eggnog with your friends.
Moderate Drinking Associated With Reduced Weight Gain in Women
According to a prospective cohort study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine (reference Arch Intern Med. 2010;170:453-461.), women of normal weight who drink alcohol in light to moderate amounts are less likely to be overweight than nondrinkers.
Study participants consisted of over 19,000 women over 38 years of age who were of normal body mass index (BMI) and free of cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes mellitus. A baseline of alcohol consumption and body weight was set for each via a questionnaire. Body weight was reported again each year for the 8 following years.
During almost 13 years of follow-up, approximately 8,000 women became overweight (about 700 obese), and researchers observed an inverse relationship between weight gain and alcohol consumption.
"Compared with nondrinkers, initially normal-weight women who consumed a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight and/or obese during 12.9 years of follow-up," the study authors write. "An inverse association between alcohol intake and risk of becoming overweight or obese was noted for all 4 types of alcoholic beverages [red wine, white wine, beer and liquor], with the strongest association found for red wine and a weak yet significant association for white wine after multivariate adjustment."
The study authors concluded that "results suggest that women who have normal body weight and consume a light to moderate amount of alcohol could maintain their drinking habits without gaining excessive weight."
Alcohol May Cut Risk of Heart Disease By One-Third
According to results in the Spanish cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) trial (reference Heart doi:10.1136/hrt.2009.173419), Spanish men who drink alcohol have a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD).
The purpose of the study was to explore the association between alcohol intake and CHD risk. Over 15,000 men and over 25,000 women who were CHD-free were evaluated for a 10-year period using a dietary history questionnaire. Participants were questioned on the amount of alcohol they drank daily or weekly during the 12-month period just prior to starting the study. They also answered questions about their lifestyles, including how much they exercised, if they smoked, were overweight, had high cholesterol and other information that would be associated with potential risk factors for heart disease.
During the 10-year follow-up period of evaluation, 609 participants had coronary events with an incidence rate of about 300 of 100,000 person-years for men and 48 of 100,000 person-years for women.
When the researchers compared the incidence of coronary events with the participants’ levels of alcohol consumption (adjusted for different body types and lifestyles), they discovered that men with moderate to high alcohol consumption had fewer coronary events than those with low alcohol consumption. A similar correlation was found in the women participants.
According to the study authors: "Alcohol intake in men aged 29-69 years was associated with a more than 30% lower CHD incidence."
Love and blessings,
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.