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Heart Benefits of Moderate Drinking May Extend to Young Adults, Researchers Say

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Moderate alcohol consumption among young adults appears to have similar protective benefits for heart health as those seen in older adults, although it has been difficult to study the effects of moderate drinking on heart disease in younger populations, according to new research.

Reuters Health reported April 8 that when Alberto Ascherio, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues broke down data from eight studies into three age groups, they saw the same trends among adults 50 and under as they did among groups ages 50 to 59 and ages 60 and older. Overall, the research team reported that consumption of about two to three standard drinks a day (30 grams of alcohol) reduced the risk of developing heart disease by 42 percent in women and 31 percent in men.

Yet the researchers warn that because men under 40 and women under 50 already are at low risk for heart disease, any benefits from moderate drinking in these groups “may be negligible compared with the increased risk of, for instance, traffic accidents and cancer.”

The North American and European studies that were examined included a pool of more than 192,000 women and nearly 75,000 men. The researchers emphasized that alcohol's protective effects are likely to be stronger in older adults who have a higher risk of cardiac problems.

The study was published online March 29, 2010, in the journal Circulation

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