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Daily drinks good for men, not women
[Posted: Fri 26/05/2006 www.irishhealth.com]
Men who drink alcohol every day have a lower risk of heart disease, compared to those who drink less frequently. However this is not the case for women, the results of a new study indicate.
It is widely known that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who abstain. However most research in this area has been done on men. As a result, little is known about drinking patterns and the risk of heart disease among women.
A team of researchers in Denmark studied over 50,000 men and women aged 50 - 65. Details on alcohol intake and drinking frequency over the preceding years were collected and the participants were then monitored for an average of five years.
During the study period, coronary heart events were recorded and the results were adjusted to take into account known risk factors, such as smoking, diet and physical activity.
Over the course of the study, women consumed an average of 5.5 alcoholic drinks per week, while men consumed 11.3. Meanwhile 1,283 men and 749 women developed coronary heart disease.
The study found that women who drank alcohol on at least one day a week had a lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to women who drank alcohol less than once a week.
However the risks were similar for drinking on one day a week (36% reduced risk) or on seven days a week (35% reduced risk). This suggests that the amount of alcohol consumed is more important than drinking frequency among women.
In contrast, risks for men were lowest among the most frequent drinkers. Men who drank one day a week had a 7% reduced risk, while men who drank every day had a 41% reduced risk. This suggests that it does not matter how much men drink, as long as they drink every day.
However the researchers emphasised that the benefits of alcohol on coronary heart disease are 'by far exceeded' by the harmful effects of heavy alcohol drinking. They said that their findings should be viewed in this context when giving public health advice.
Details of this study are published in the British Medical Journal.
The Department of Health recommends that men drink no more than 21 'standard drinks' per week and women drink no more than 14. These should be spread out over the course of the week. A 'standard drink' is equivalent to one half pint of beer, one glass of wine or one pub measure of spirits.
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