Consuming Alcohol in Moderation Can Lower Mortality Risks

Men and women who engage in light-to-moderate alcohol consumption have a decreased risk of mortality from all-causes and cardiovascular disease, according to a study published August 14 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Bo Xi, MD, et al., looked at the relationship between all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality risks and current alcohol consumption patterns. The researchers used data from 333,247 participants obtained through the National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 to 2009. Alcohol consumption patterns were divided into six categories: lifetime abstainers, lifetime infrequent drinkers, former drinkers, and current light (less than three drinks per week), moderate (more than three drinks per week to less than 14 drinks per week for men or less than seven drinks per week for women) or heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week for men or seven drinks per week for women).

Throughout the length of the study, 34,754 participants died from all-causes. Of these, 8,947 deaths were cardiovascular disease-specific (6,944 heart disease-related and 2,003 cerebrovascular-related deaths) and 8,427 mortalities were cancer-specific.

The results of the study showed that men who are heavy drinkers have a 25 percent increased risk of mortality due to all-causes and a 67 percent increase in mortality from cancer; however, these results were not significant in women. Men and women who engaged in moderate drinking had a 13 percent and 25 percent decreased risk of all-cause mortality, and 21 and 34 percent decreased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, respectively. There were similar findings for light drinking for both men and women.

Light-to-moderate drinking may have protective factors for either all-cause or cardiovascular disease mortality, write the authors. To decrease all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality risks, the researchers emphasize that a balance needs to be considered when looking at individual patient recommendations, however reducing high alcohol consumption is necessary.

In an accompanying editorial, Giovanni de Gaetano, MD, PhD, said that while younger adults should not expect considerable benefit from moderate drinking, "for most older persons, the overall benefits of light drinking, especially the reduced cardiovascular disease risk, clearly outweigh possible cancer risk." He concluded by noting that those who do not drink should not start, but rather focus on adopting a healthy lifestyle surrounding "regular physical activity, no smoking, weight control and dietary habits."

Keywords: Smoking, Research Personnel, Alcohol Drinking, Alcoholic Intoxication, Risk Reduction Behavior, Feeding Behavior, Heart Diseases, Neoplasms, Exercise, Alcohols, Cardiotoxicity

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