Any heart gains from drinking
alcohol in moderation are likely outweighed by the harm,
The findings in The Lancet suggest that
drinking a glass or two of wine a day may not be such
a good idea.
Although past research suggests some
heart benefits, the New Zealand team says the studies
Indeed, there is more evidence that heavier
drinking provides the most heart protection - alcoholics
have relatively 'clean' arteries - they say.
However, in this instance the other health
risks definitely outweigh the benefits. Lead researcher
Dr Rod Jackson, from the University of Auckland, and his
team said: "Any coronary protection from light to moderate
drinking will be very small and unlikely to outweigh the
"While moderate to heavy drinking is
probably coronary-protective, any benefit will be overwhelmed
by the known harms.
"If so, the public health message is
clear. Do not assume there is a window in which the health
benefits of alcohol are greater than the harms - there
is probably no free lunch."
Various studies published in the 1970s
and 1980s suggested alcohol, in moderation, could be good
for the heart.
'Festive tipple is OK'
These early observations were confirmed
by pooling together of findings from different studies,
which suggested a 20% to 25% reduction in heart disease
risk linked to light drinking.
But Dr Jackson's team said that the way
the studies were carried out did not allow the researchers
to be able to say with certainty that the findings could
not due to other factors rather than solely the amount
of alcohol consumed.
Belinda Linden, head of medical information
at the British Heart Foundation said: "This suggests that
light to moderate alcohol consumption may only give a
small amount of protection against coronary heart disease,
while the benefits of moderate to heavy drinking are likely
to be outweighed by the overall harm that alcohol can
"The good news is that people can still
enjoy alcohol in moderation, especially during the festive
period. There is no evidence to suggest that light to
moderate alcohol consumption will actually harm the heart.
However over indulging can have an adverse effect on your
"We should not encourage people to start
drinking specifically to protect their heart, as there
are much safer options.
"Our advice remains the same - the best
way to reduce the risk of heart disease is to quit smoking
if you smoke, increase levels of physical activity and
eat a healthy balanced diet."