Written by Nathan Seppa, sciencenews.org Tuesday, 16 November 2010 14:42
CHICAGO—The cardiac benefits of having a daily drink or two might extend to a surprising group—men with heart disease so bad it has required coronary bypass surgery.
The value of light-to-moderate drinking for cardiovascular health has shown up previously in healthy people, with studies showing that—other things being equal—people who regularly drank in moderation had less heart disease and fewer strokes than nondrinkers.
But moderate drinking’s protective benefits may also extend to those who already have some cardiovascular disease, suggests work presented by cardiac surgeon Umberto Benedetto of the University of Rome La Sapienza. Benedetto reported the new findings November 14 at the meeting of the American Heart Association.
He and his colleagues recruited 1,221 people who had disease severe enough to require coronary artery bypass surgery, in which a vessel is taken from another part of the body and grafted onto the heart. The grafted vessel serves as a clean conduit to restore normal blood flow to the heart muscle. In the United States, doctors perform the surgery, which bypasses a hopelessly clogged artery, on more than 300,000 people each year.
The Italian team focused on men, who represented four-fifths of the people in the study. During a post-surgery followup period that averaged 3.5 years, about one in six had a heart attack, required more surgery, had a stroke or died. Those who continued to drink alcohol, though not to excess, after surgery were 11 to 39 percent less likely to encounter one of these problems as were teetotalers, the researchers found. The optimal alcohol intake in the men was about two drinks per day, Benedetto says.