Updates On Wine And Health

Wine Lnked With Lower Lung Cancer Risk

NEW YORK, Mar 01, 2000 (Reuters Health) -- Male wine drinkers may have a lower risk of lung cancer than those who drink beer or spirits. Dr. Eva Prescott and colleagues at Copenhagen University Hospital examined data from three Danish studies involving more than 28,000 adults. Overall, they found no association between low to moderate alcohol intake and lung cancer risk. When the analysis was limited to men, they observed that those who drank wine had a lower risk of lung cancer than those who did not drink wine. But the data also suggested an increased risk of lung cancer in men who drank beer or spirits. For example, men who reported drinking 1 to 13 glasses of wine per week had a 22% lower risk of lung cancer compared with drinkers of other types of alcohol. Men who consumed more than 13 glasses of wine per week had a 56% lower risk than other alcohol drinkers. The researchers suggest that the seemingly protective effect “may be related to the antioxidant properties of wine, and deserves further attention.” SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 1999;149:463-470.

Light-To-Moderate Alcohol Intake May Prevent Stroke

NEW YORK, Nov 17, 1999 (Reuters Health) -- People who consume as little as one alcoholic drink per day significantly reduce their risk of stroke, but drinking more does not increase the benefit, results of a study suggest. Previous studies have shown that “drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may have protective effects against subtypes of stroke,” according to Dr. Klaus Berger, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 22,000 male doctors aged 40 - 84. Over 12 years, 679 men experienced first strokes. Most of the strokes were caused by interruptions of the brain’s blood supply (ischemic strokes), while fewer than 15% were caused by brain bleeding (hemorrhagic strokes). Compared with other participants, the group of men who consumed at least one drink per week had a 21% lower risk of having any type of stroke.

The same group had a 23% lower risk of ischemic stroke, the scientists calculated. Drinking had neither a positive nor a negative effect on the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. After Berger and his colleagues accounted for other risk factors, they found that “the largest risk reductions were found among the men who had one to four drinks per week.” Blood pressure and exercise affected the impact of drinking on stroke risk, according to the investigators. Alcohol consumption benefited men whose blood pressure was 140 or higher or who exercised at least once a week. The authors conclude that “light-to-moderate consumption of alcohol (one to seven drinks per week) reduced the risks of total stroke and ischemic stroke.” SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine 1999;341:1557-1564, 1605-1606.

Red Wine Without The Alcohol Good For The Heart

NEW YORK, Jan 03, 2000 (Reuters Health) -- It may not please wine connoisseurs, but red wine without the alcohol is also good for the heart, researchers report. Dr. Jennifer R.C. Bell and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, report the results of their study, in which they took a 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon and removed the alcohol. They then asked 5 men and 4 women -- all healthy -- to drink about a 1/2 cup of the wine, with water added on one day and water and ethanol added on the other. The investigators measured levels of the flavonoid “(+)-catechin” -- the wine component credited with heart benefits -- after consumption.

The researchers collected blood at baseline and then 30 minutes, 1, 2 3, 4 and 8 hours after consumption. They found that the half-life of (+)-catechin was significantly shorter (3.17 hours) when subjects drank alcoholic red wine than when they drank the dealcoholized version (4.08 hours). Bell and colleagues report that increases in total (+)-catechin in plasma were similar after ingestion of alcoholic and nonalcoholic red wine and that gender had no effect.

But moderate amounts of alcohol also make a contribution to heart health. Previous research shows that alcohol by itself increases concentration of HDL -- “the good cholesterol” -- in the blood, the researchers note. “The results (of this study)... suggest that red wine provides two independent factors capable of contributing to vascular health when consumed in moderation,” the investigators write, namely the HDL-boosting effects of alcohol and the increase of flavonoids in the blood. SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000;71:103-108.

One Drink Is Good, More Than Two Isn't

NEW YORK, Jan 03, 2000 (Reuters Health) -- Consumption of one alcoholic drink per day appears to reduce the risk of heart disease in middle-aged men, but more than two drinks each day may offset these benefits by increasing the risk of some cancers, researchers report. “Our observational research shows that there seems to be benefit of light to moderate alcohol consumption,” Dr. J. Michael Gaziano told Reuters Health. “However, people shouldn’t drink instead of doing other preventive activities such as stopping smoking, controlling cholesterol and exercising.” And the data from US physicians participating in the Physicians’ Health Study show that excess consumption will cancel the benefits of moderate consumption, by increasing the risk of some of the less common cancers.

Any recommendation on alcohol consumption should be individualized through discussions with a physician, according to Gaziano of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. People with liver disease or a history of alcohol abuse should not drink at all, while those with diabetes and hypertension may partake in light alcohol consumption, Gaziano said.

Gaziano and colleagues analyzed self-reported alcohol consumption of 89,299 male physicians between the ages of 40 and 84 years with no prior medical history of heart attack, stroke, cancer or liver disease. Their findings are reported in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. After an average of more than 5 years of follow-up the data revealed that, “light to moderate drinking -- perhaps one per day -- shows benefits in reducing risk of heart disease with no increased risk of cancer,” Gaziano said. SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2000;35:96-105.

Moderate Drinking Lowers Diabetes Risk In Men

NEW YORK, Jan 06, 2000 (Reuters Health) -- Men who are ‘moderate’ drinkers -- between 5 to 10 drinks per week -- have a lower risk for adult-onset diabetes than either abstainers or heavy drinkers, researchers report. “Men with a high alcohol intake may be able to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they drink less,” report Dr. Ming Wei and colleagues at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas.

As reported previously by Reuters Health, numerous studies have suggested that having a drink or two per day appears to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. In their study, Wei’s team examined rates of type 2 diabetes -- the adult-onset form of the disease affecting 95% of all diabetics -- in over 8,600 Texan men. They found that diabetes risks were lowest in men who drank between 5 and 10 drinks per week, compared with either abstain-ers/infrequent drinkers (0 to 5 drinks per week) or heavy drinkers (10 to 22 drinks or above). In fact, infrequent or heavy drinkers faced twice the risk of type 2 diabetes of moderate drinkers!

Wei told Reuters Health that, according to previous studies, moderate drinking “reduces insulin resistance,” while heavy alcohol consumption “increases insulin resistance.” Insulin resistance -- in which the body gradually stops responding to the sugar hoarding effect of the hormone insulin -- is thought to precede full-blown type 2 diabetes. Based on their findings, the authors estimate that “24% of the incident cases of diabetes in (adult men) might be attributable to high alcohol intake.” While they do not recommend that abstainers take up drinking to lower their diabetes risk, they do urge that heavy drinkers cut back in order to lower their risk. SOURCE: Diabetes Care 2000;23:18-22