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Moderate drinking 'is good for you'

Moderate, regular drinking cuts your risk of heart disease and heart attacks according to a new study

MODERATE, regular drinking cuts your risk of heart disease and heart attacks according to a new study of 9,778 men in France and Northern Ireland; however the study also showed that how and when you drink can double your risk.

The 10-year study looked at the patterns of drinking and the results on the health of the 50-59 year old volunteers from Lille, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Belfast, It found that binge drinkers were twice as likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease than moderate, regular drinkers even although they were drinking exactly the same quantity of alcohol.

The study also highlighted that the risks for non-drinkers were slightly higher than for binge-drinkers.

While the French mostly drank wine and spread their intake out over the week, the Northern Ireland subjects, for the most part, did their drinking at weekends – swallowing between two to three times as much as the French in the same period – and stuck to beer and spirits.

In all, 75 per cent of the French men drank daily – only 12 per cent of the Belfast men did – while nine per cent of the Belfast men admitted they drank at least three pints in one go, mostly at the weekend.

Binge drinking, which has long been known as a cause of liver damage, has been defined as having more than eight units of alcohol in one session for men and more than six units a session for women. Drinks were counted as half a pint of beer or 125ml of wine [one-sixth of a bottle of wine].

Over the 10 years of the study the researchers found 5.3 per cent of the Belfast men had heart attacks or died from heart problems, compared with 2.6 per cent in France.

All of the men had been checked for any signs of heart disease at the start of the tests and researchers adjusted the results for recognised cardiovascular risk factors in the country of study – although the infamous “Ulster fry” greasy breakfast was not taken into consideration.

They were categorised in several groups: never drinkers, former drinkers, regular drinkers and binge drinkers. About 50 per cent of the Belfast men reported drinking regularly while 39.5 per cent were classified as nondrinkers.

Of the French, 90 per cent said they drank regularly, with 9.4 per cent being non-drinkers. Only 0.5 per cent were classed as binge drinkers. The study was carried out by Toulouse University School of Medicine, and other French institutions, along with Queen’s University, Belfast.

It follows earlier work by French researcher Dr Serge Renaud who said drinking up to three glasses of red wine a day helped prevent heart problems and countered the fat-rich diet.

Teenagers turn to AA

ACROSS France English-speaking Alcoholics Anonymous groups are getting ready for increasing numbers at meetings as they realise their drinking caused problems in the festive season.

Jill, an alcoholic from the Paris region, said people changed with alcohol; abusing their families, arguing with bosses, becoming more sexually aggressive and turned to the AA for information after realising some of what was happening.

However, she said: “We are not doctors, we can only give suggestions.

“Many people come to AA who are in a very delicate state, but the only way is for them to accept they have a problem. Being honest with themselves is the first step.

“For a self-admitted alcoholic there is no such thing as having a drink every now and then; even for health reasons. One drink always leads to another.

“We see more people coming in after every high day and holiday, but there are a lot more younger people coming in – even teenagers – perhaps eight or nine out of 20 and they are taking the first steps.”

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