Settling down with a Christmas tipple may be good for your health – but only if you're slim
Researchers have found moderate alcohol consumption may only be good for your heart if you are thin
Australian scientists found it increases the risk of heart disease in those with a BMI of more than 27.5Original studies on the health benefits of alcohol may be outdated, they say
11:26 GMT, 28 December 2012
The common assumption that a Christmas tipple is good for you may be wrong for most Britons
The common assumption that a couple of glasses of wine are good for you may be wrong for most Britons, new research reveals.
Scientists at Australia’s Curtin University have discovered that if you are overweight, far from boosting your heart’s health, moderate alcohol consumption may actually put it at risk.
Writing in this month’s issue of the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Dr Tim Lobstein and Professor Mike Daube acknowledged that previous studies show that a little alcohol may lower your risk of heart disease, while a lot will raise the risk.
However, the researchers in Perth were concerned that the data used in these studies had come from surveys undertaken more than 40 years ago when people were much slimmer than they are today.
Therefore, they believed that the findings may no longer stand.
Dr Lobstein, who is director of policy at the International Association for the Study of Obesity in London and who co-authored the research, said: ‘We were concerned that the findings from a previous generation may not apply to our modern, fatter population.
‘So we revisited the data in the classic Framingham Heart Study (a landmark study which identifies risk factors for heart disease), and examined the differences between slimmer and fatter men to see how the J-shaped curve held up.’
The researchers discovered that the health benefits still hold for slim men but not for those with a Body Mass Index above 27.5.
Healthcare professionals recommend that a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25.
The study comes at a time when the latest NHS figures show that 42 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women are overweight – they have a BMI of more than 25.
Furthermore, 26 per cent of adults in the UK are classed as obese because their BMI is more than 30.
Moderate alcohol consumption is not good for people with a BMI of more than 27.5
Research published in The Lancet last year showed that the average BMI for adults in the UK is currently 27.
Dr Lobstein said: ‘In effect, the standard advice about a small amount of alcohol being good for the heart doesn’t stack up for overweight men.
‘We will need to check other surveys and see if they show the same pattern, and we will need to check the data for women.
‘We know that apart from heart disease, other causes of disease are made worse by even small amounts of alcohol, including cancer, diabetes and stroke – the major chronic disease killers,’ he added.
‘For now, the advice has to be that there is no such thing as a beneficial level of consumption, especially if you are overweight.’
Other recent research has shown that wine could have additional health-giving properties.
Studies have indicated alcohol may raise levels of good cholesterol and be beneficial to blood vessels, while antioxidants in wine are thought to protect arteries.
Cardiologist Geoffrey Tofler, of the University of Sydney, has found that moderate wine drinkers have higher levels of HDL, the so-called ‘good cholesterol’.
His study of 3,000 people found that the platelets of people who drank three to six standard measures a week are much less likely to clump together in a way that could cause clotting.
Meanwhile, researchers at Leicester University also found that drinking a large glass of red wine each day could help prevent bowel cancer.
Their research showed that resveratrol, a substance found in the skin of red grapes, has cancer-fighting properties.
Just small quantities of the substance were shown to halve the growth of tumours.
Similarly, researchers at the University of Missouri discovered that resveratrol can make prostate tumour cells more susceptible to radiation treatment.