Health news that's worthy of a toast


Alcohol in moderation can help, study says


April 14, 2004|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In a world where extremes seem to claim all the attention, it's refreshing to hear new evidence of the rewards of moderation.

We've long been hearing that red wine can have beneficial effects on heart health. Now comes word that there are similar benefits in other alcoholic drinks as well.

A study published in the March 22 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine examined the effects of moderate drinking on the cardiovascular health of men with hypertension, or high blood pressure. It found that moderate drinkers in the study were less likely to die from strokes or heart attacks than were the nondrinkers.

Researchers have previously pointed to the virtues of moderate drinking - usually defined as one or two drinks a day. But because studies also had found that heavy drinking seemed to be associated with an increase in blood pressure, most physicians tended to advise patients who already suffered from hypertension to avoid alcohol altogether.

The new study suggests that may not be necessary. As its conclusion states: "Patients with hypertension who are able to maintain light to moderate alcohol intake have no compelling reason to change their lifestyle and eliminate a possible beneficial habit."

So if you prefer gin or bourbon or beer to red wine, take comfort - the research on alcohol and its potential health benefits has not passed you by. The "moderate-drinking" category would allow you up to two drinks of beer at 12 ounces per drink, two glasses of wine at 4 ounces per glass or two drinks of spirits at 1 1/2 ounces of liquor per drink.

"This is a very important study," says Dr. Ray Scalettar, a physician and adviser to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The bottom line, according to Scalettar, is this: "If you drink, do so moderately. If you don't drink, don't start. But there are health benefits to alcohol and the public should be aware of it."

For fans of the old-fashioned cocktail hour, that's reason enough to indulge in an old-fashioned martini.


Makes 1 drink

1 1/2 ounces gin

dash of vermouth (approximately 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste)

twist of lemon peel


Fill a martini glass with ice and water to chill. Add a scoop of ice to your cocktail shaker then add the gin, vermouth and a twist of lemon peel.

Cover and shake vigorously. Pour the ice and water out of the martini glass and strain the drink from the shaker into the glass. Garnish with an olive.

- Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

Per serving: 102 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1 milligram sodium

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