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Two pegs friendly, but Indians beware!

New Delhi, Oct. 25: A drink or two is apparently as heart-friendly for healthy men as exercise and a diet of fruits and vegetables. But Indians sho-uld pause before reaching for the bottle.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School in the US have found that healthy men who drink moderate amounts of alcohol daily have a lower risk of heart attack than healthy men who do not drink at all.

Several previous studies have shown that adults who consume moderate amounts of alcohol have a reduced risk of heart attack. The new study is the first to show that among men with healthy lifestyles, those who consume between one and two drinks a day had a 40 to 60 per cent reduced risk of heart attack compared to men who did not drink at all.

“These results suggest that moderate drinking could be viewed as a complement to other lifestyle interventions in reducing a man’s risk of heart attack,” said Kenneth Mukamal, associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The researchers reported their findings on Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

But a senior Indian medical researcher cautioned that it is still unclear whether this data can be extrapolated to Indians who have a high prevalence of diabetes and fat accumulation in the liver.

“The potential benefits of alcohol have been known for years, but physicians are reluctant to prescribe it because alcohol can add more fat into an already fatty liver which is a relatively common finding in India,” said Anoop Misra, head of diabetes and metabolic diseases at the Fortis Hospital in New Delhi.

Doctors are also wary about the risks of heavy drinking and do not generally recommend daily alcohol as a strategy to reduce the risk of heart disease, he said.

Instead, they focus on other proven methods like regular exercise, abstention from smoking and healthy diet.

“There’s no question that all of these other behaviours are important and can help prevent other chronic diseases besides heart disease,” said Mukamal.

But the new study suggests that doctors should not avoid discussing alcohol when talking with patients about ways to reduce their risk of heart attack, he added.

The study examined drinking behaviour and heart history of 8,867 men between 40 and 75 years of age in the US who maintained healthy lifestyles.

The study found that men who drank 15 to 30 grams — or 12 to 24 ml — alcohol per day — the equivalent of two small drinks — had the lowest risk of heart attack and those who did not drink at all had the highest.

Over a 16-year period, 106 men had heart attacks — eight heart attacks among men who drank the equivalent of two drinks and 28 heart attacks among men who did not drink at all.

“We estimate that approximately 25 per cent of heart attacks that occurred among these healthy individuals might be attributable to abstention or extreme light drinking,” Mukamal said.

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