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’Rigorous’ Study Examines Alcohol’s Effect on Heart Disease

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Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are conducting a controlled blind study to determine whether a daily dose of alcohol can help prevent heart disease, the Boston Globe reported May 6.

Researcher Kenneth Mukamal and colleagues are tracking a group of patients over the age of 55 for six months. Subjects will be randomly chosen to receive a daily dose of either plain lemonade or raspberry-lemonade flavored Crystal Light or the same drink mixed with grain alcohol (which has no taste). Study participants will be asked to drink five ounces each evening (the equivalent to one medium sized glass of wine), and researchers will monitor any changes in the participants’ cholesterol levels as well as fat deposits in their arteries.

Most of the existing research on the potential for positive health effects from alcohol has been based on people recalling drinking patterns.

“Large numbers of the public are getting recommendations or are making their decisions about drinking based on imperfect information,” said researcher Tim Naimi of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “It’s almost unethical to continue to allow people to make decisions that could have important life consequences in the absence of the best kind of scientific evidence.”

Mukamal and his team will also monitor whether participants drink any other alcohol while they are participating in the study (the researchers instructed the participants to abstain during the study period).

“We’re asking you to drink what we give you every night, but no other alcohol for six months,” Mukamal said. “Compare the challenge we face to conducting a trial of any drug, when all one needs to do is pop a pill every day.”

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