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Moderate alcohol intake could benefit non-drinkers

Non-drinkers who start consuming moderate amounts of alcohol quickly reduce their cardiovascular risk, a US study suggests.

Around 6% of almost 8,000 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Trial took up moderate drinking during the study period – two drinks or fewer a day for men and one or fewer for women.

The new drinkers had a 38% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease after four years than non-drinkers and they showed no increase in blood pressure levels. This difference persisted after adjustment for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors.

The authors say any benefit of starting drinking in middle age must be weighed with caution against the known consequences of alcohol consumption but that people who begin consuming alcohol at this age rarely do so beyond recommended amounts.

Those who begin drinking moderately experience a relatively prompt benefit of lower rates of cardiovascular disease morbidity - although there no changes in mortality rates in the four year follow up of this trial.

American Journal of Medicine 2008; 121: 201-6

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