Just when you thought that glass of wine did you good!

Just when you thought those one or two glasses of wine were of benefit to your health, a new study is now saying that is not necessarily the case.

According to researchers from Canada and Australia the benefits of alcohol for the heart are exaggerated.

Lead author Kaye M. Fillmore, Ph.D., of the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing and her team analyzed 54 previous studies on alcohol use and mortality, which included deaths from coronary heart disease.

Of the studies 47 included in the "abstainer" category individuals who were not long-term abstainers but had only recently stopped drinking or cut down to once per month or less, says Fillmore.

The studies were published in the 1980s and 1990s, although they spanned 1950 to 2004 and the researchers found a systematic error in the design of previous studies that may have exaggerated alcohol as a health boon.

The studies in the main divided groups into "drinkers" and "abstainers" and among the abstainers were people who had reduced or quit drinking for medical reasons.

The researchers say the abstainers had higher death rates than drinkers.

Initially it appeared the abstainers were at higher risk for heart disease because they refrained from drinking alcohol, and so did not get its protective benefit, when in fact Fillmore says those in the abstainer category were often already frail and predisposed to death.

British heart specialist Gerry Shaper first suggested this research discrepancy in a 1988 study, and many researchers since have taken his observation seriously, trying to allow for the problem in their work.

But Fillmore's study suggests these allowances may still be inadequate.

Fillmore and her team looked at seven studies without this error and found that both groups were at equal risk of dying.

When Fillmore reconstructed the error back into the data for the abstainer group, she found the abstainers were at a higher risk of dying than moderate drinkers.

The study authors warn that their report does not deny the positives of light alcohol intake, defined as two drinks or fewer per day, but say much is still unclear.

Fillmore says it is worth remembering that there are other things that do exactly the same thing for your health and are probably less dangerous than alcohol.

Other experts also say that the positives of moderate alcohol intake, raising HDL, the healthy cholesterol; reducing overactive blood clotting; and helping insulin sensitivity, can be duplicated in a less riskier way with healthy diet and exercise.

Many question recommending drinking as a wise lifestyle choice as on the whole alcohol causes more problems than it prevents.

Others warn however about interpreting Fillmore's study as the last word on alcohol intake.

Many experts do not regard the study as convincing proof that the evidence on the positive health effects of alcohol is wrong.

Fillmore herself hopes future studies will take into account the drinking history of their subjects and calls for more research on the subject.

The study is published in the online edition of the journal Addiction Research and Theory.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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