Older adults who consume one to seven alcoholic beverages a week may live longer and have a reduced risk for cardiac events than those who do not drink--an association that appears independent of the anti-inflammatory effects of alcohol, according to a report in the July 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Alcohol may worsen some chronic diseases and the overall effect of drinking on survival is not clear, according to background information in the article. However, several studies have shown that alcohol may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart failure and contribute to a lower death rate. Light to moderate alcohol intake has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, compounds that circulate in the blood due to inflammation. Therefore, researchers have suspected that the mechanism linking alcohol to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease may be related to inflammation.
Cinzia Maraldi, M.D., of the Institute on Aging, University of Florida, Gainesville, and colleagues investigated the relationship between alcohol, death and cardiac events (such as hospitalization for heart attack, cardiac pain or heart failure) in 2,487 adults without heart disease age 70 to 79 years. Participants (average age 73.5 years, 55 percent women) were recruited between April 1997 and June 1998 and answered questions about disease diagnoses, medication use and drinking habits during an initial interview. They were classified based on how many drinks they consumed in a typical week over the past year; the categories were former; never or occasional (less than one drink per week); light to moderate (one to seven); and heavier (more than seven). During the study, each individual was contacted by telephone every six months and had a clinical assessment every year. Levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 were tested in blood collected after an overnight fast at the beginning o
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