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Light drinking improves health risk factors: study


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Light drinking improves health risk factors: study

By Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Consuming small amounts of alcohol appears to improve several factors associated with increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the few hours after eating a meal, according to the results of a small study reported in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

"Our current study extends the findings of our previous work, which demonstrate that people who drink small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis have better blood fat levels, better insulin sensitivity and lower amounts of abdominal or central fat than people who don't drink at all or those who drink heavily," Dr. Lesley V. Campbell from Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia told Reuters Health.

Campbell and colleagues examined the effect of 15 grams of alcohol -- the amount in one to one and one half drinks -- on metabolic factors in 20 postmenopausal women during six hours after eating.

Alcohol consumption was associated with lower blood levels of sugar and insulin after a low-carbohydrate meal, but only in insulin-sensitive subjects, the authors report, whereas alcohol consumption did not affect these variables after a high-carbohydrate meal or in insulin-resistant subjects.

Alcohol consumption didn't influence levels of total or HDL cholesterol after either type of meal, the report indicates, though alcohol did increase triglyceride levels after both meals.

Alcohol enhanced the reduction in arterial stiffness, a cardiovascular risk factor, after the low-carbohydrate meal and increased the rate of calorie burning 30 to 60 minutes after both the low- and high-carbohydrate meals, the researchers note.

"The beneficial effects of adding a small amount of alcohol to a meal that we demonstrated add weight to, and indeed may explain the observation, that moderate alcohol consumers have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes," Campbell said.

"The use of alcohol per se in our study, rather than a particular type of alcoholic drink, means that we can confidently attribute the benefits that we demonstrated to alcohol itself, rather than to a specific component of a particular alcoholic drink," Campbell added.

"As we only studied postmenopausal women in this trial, future studies will need to examine similar research questions in men," Campbell said.

SOURCE: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, March 2005.

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