Should doctors recommend alcohol as a way to reduce their risk of heart disease? At the recent Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse annual meeting, an expert in heart health and an expert in addiction and primary care medicine came up with sharply different answers.
R. Curtis Ellison, MD, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the Boston University School of Medicine and a senior investigator in The Framingham Heart Study, argued in favor of recommending alcohol to benefit patients’ health. “Is light to moderate alcohol intake associated with beneficial health effects?” His answer is overwhelmingly yes, based on trials in humans and a huge amount of experimental data. He notes there have been many thousands of experimental studies (animals and humans) that support the premise that moderate alcohol and wine intake is associated with better health outcomes.
“While I am not recommending that everyone should drink, it is important that the public be given the truth. Middle-aged and older people should be aware that, unless contraindicated (by former abuse, pregnancy, religious beliefs, etc.), the regular consumption of a small amount of alcohol each day is associated with a lower risk of most of the diseases of aging, and with a longer lifespan,” Dr. Ellison said.
The important message to tell the public, he says, is explaining that drinking patterns make a big difference. “Fourteen drinks a week can mean two drinks a day, or all 14 drinks in one weekend—there’s a striking difference between the two,” he said.
Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education