Alcohol could protect older women from heart disease

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Atherosclerosis

A recent study confirms the evidence that moderate alcohol is
beneficial. American scientists have found that the risk of heart
disease in older women may in fact be reduced by alcohol.

A recent study confirms the evidence that moderate alcohol is beneficial. American scientists have found that the risk of heart disease in older women may in fact be reduced by alcohol, reports BBC Health Online.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, found that post-menopausal women (who are at higher risk of heart disease than those before menopause) who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol had lower cholesterol rates than those who did not drink.

Research was carried out on 51 women with an average age of 60 years old.They spent eight weeks drinking no alcohol, followed by a period of eight weeks drinking 15g of alcohol daily, and then another eight weeks consuming 30g of alcohol.

Results from the periods of alcohol consumption showed that low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as 'bad' cholesterol, was reduced, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or 'good' cholesterol, was increased.

The researchers suggest that by drinking one alcoholic drink per day, post menopausal women would decrease heart disease risk by up to five per cent, and with a daily intake of two drinks, patients could see a 10 to 13 per cent decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

But some medical experts have warned that while it may reduce cholesterol, alcohol may have other detrimental health consequences.

Dr Abdullah Badawy, consultant biochemist at Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, said the study was not conclusive. He suggested alcohol could affect levels of a substance in the blood called homocysteine, an amino acid which may irritate blood vessels, leading to blockages in the arteries - called atherosclerosis.

High homocysteine levels can make blood clot more easily than it should, increasing the risk of blood vessel blockages, which can cause strokes.

Up to 20 per cent of people with heart disease have high homocysteine levels. New research also suggests high homocysteine levels may be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

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