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Study warms drinkers’ hearts

Boston, Jan. 8 (Reuters): More good news for drinkers — frequent tippling of beer, wine or even spirits lowers a man’s risk of heart attack, and it appears to be how often, not how much, that is important.

Regular drinkers cut their risk of heart attack by about one third compared to non-drinkers, and one beer every other day may do the trick, according to the results of a large, long-term study released today.

The study, which tracked the drinking habits of more than 38,000 men over 12 years, provides an important clue as to how alcohol helps guard against coronary heart disease, and for the first time, strongly suggests that routine consumption of alcoholic beverages is key.

“Even relatively modest amounts of alcohol may be protective if consumed frequently,” said Kenneth Mukamal of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Mukamal and his colleagues also looked at the benefits of different types of alcoholic beverages and found that wine offered no more protection than beer or hard liquor. Earlier research had suggested that wine was better.

But an editorial in tomorrow’s New England Journal of Medicine, where the study appeared, warned that the research should not be used as an excuse for heavy drinking because the risks of excess alcohol consumption are serious and drinkers may be prone to die young from accidents. “Substitution of one disease for another is not a medical advance,” said Ira Goldberg of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

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