Re: A drink a day to empty resthomes?

I doubt any would deny a daily glass of a favourite tipple to ‘super citizens’ regardless of where they reside. There are indeed a myriad of studies and reviews of studies over the last decade to support the hypothesis that low dose alcohol has health giving properties. But is the hoop la that accompanies this popular paradigm shift clouding objectivity?

Lyn Gillanders in her article points to moderate alcohol use as a plausible cognitive benefit because of “strong links” between alcohol and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (NZ Doctor 20 April 2005 page 25). The author quite rightly cautions regarding the considerable risk with higher levels of drinking. Nevertheless the presumption is that a benefit exists, ignoring questions of the links being made.

Having a number of studies that draw a similar conclusion is not proof. These are observational non-randomised studies with innumerable variable that need to be considered. Many studies do not find an inverse association between alcohol and heart disease (Tsubono et al, 2001; Fillmore, 2000; Hart et al, 1999; Thakker, 1998; Andreasson 1998). Even the quintessential “French Paradox” study that swept to world attention and epitomised drinking for your health, turns out to be a myth. French heart disease statistics were underestimated due to a different way of coding coronary mortality.

In the latest research* assessing the link between heart disease and alcohol intake of the 250,000 adults participating in the 2003 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, the researchers conclude, ‘These finding suggest that some, if not all, of the health protective factors attributed to alcohol are more likely to be the result of residual or unmeasured confounding characteristics associated with increased CVD mortality.” This large study controlled for a wide range of demographic, social and behavioural factors, access to healthcare, and health-related conditions. They found that non drinkers had a higher risk of heart disease because they had a higher rate of hypertension, diabetes, inactivity, and obesity compared to moderate drinkers.
One could argue that those are not typical characteristics of nurses. However with the above discussion in mind, I would like to propose a different plausible explanation for the finding in the Nurses study. It might be that women, who consciously regulate their daily alcohol intake to very low levels, already possess better cognitive function.

*Brief reports: Cardiovascular risk factors and confounders among non-drinking and moderate-drinking U.S. adults. T.S. Naimi, D.W. Brown, R.D. Brewer, W.H. Giles, G. Mensah, M.K. Serdula, A.H. Mokdad, D.W. Hungerford, J.Lando, S. Naimi and D. F. Stroup. Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume >28, Issue 4, May 2005, Pages 369-373.

Christine Rogan
Health Promotion Advisor
Alcohol Healthwatch