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The cardioprotective effects of moderate alcohol consumption

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 11 May 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1179
  1. Ian R White
  1. Lecturer in medical statistics Medical Statistics Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

    No real evidence exists that wine is better than beer or spirits

    The recent British government report Sensible Drinking1 followed a scientific consensus in recognising the cardioprotective effect of moderate alcohol consumption in men aged over 40 and postmenopausal women. Two points of controversy are the government's consequent effective increase in the sensible drinking levels2 and whether specific alcoholic beverages carry more benefit than others.

    Developed countries with higher wine consumption tend to have lower mortality from coronary heart disease3 4; the association is weaker or absent for beer and spirits. This contrast has led to the hypothesis that wine has a special cardioprotective effect. The finding, however, may be an artefact resulting from higher total alcohol consumption in wine drinking countries than in those where beer and spirits are drunk more often. Comparisons between countries are often misleading—they also suggest that the effect of alcohol consumption on male mortality from coronary heart disease is three times that of smoking3—and should be viewed with great caution.

    The recent paper by Rimm et al provides …

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