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Here's yet another study that identified moderate drinking as a key lifestyle factor linked to better health, especially among older people. In fact, moderate drinking was more significant to "thriving" among this population than regular exercise or normal weight. In a first-of-its kind study, US and Canadian researchers followed over 2400 adults in Canada for a 10-year period. The subjects were 65 to 85 years old at the beginning of the survey. Most previous surveys of "healthy aging" measured results at a single point in time. "No other study has used such a follow-up survey with repeated measures to determine the maintenance of exceptionally good health in a large population-based sample of older persons," the authors pointed out. They rated health based on 8 attributes: vision, hearing, speech, ambulation, dexterity, emotion, cognition, and pain/discomfort. Scores could be as high as 1.0 and as low as a negative rating for an "all-worst" state, described as "worse than dead." The participants were placed into 4 groups: "thrivers (who maintained exceptional health with no or only mild disability), non-thrivers (moderate or severe disability)" the deceased and the institutionalized. Only 8% of the adults were considered "thrivers" over the 10 years of the study.…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2008
  • Volume 25
  • Issue # 11
In a quiet but important shift, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is no longer including numbers of "alcohol-related fatalities" - or the phrase itself -- in its Annual Assessments. Instead, the latest report (released August 28) analyzes only "alcohol-impaired driving fatalities," when at least one driver (or motorcycle operator) in the crash has a BAC of .08 or higher. Gone from the data and discussion: statistics on drivers or non-occupants with BACs lower than .08 but higher than zero. For years, industry members and other observers believed the alcohol-related figures distorted the drunk-driving picture. Many suggested NHTSA should focus on high-risk, high-BAC drivers. It would appear NHTSA changed its view. Note too: NHTSA's current prevention message is not focused on zero tolerance (the 2005 message was "You Drink & Drive. You Lose."), but is aimed clearly at impaired driving: "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." What does the latest data show? Per usual, results are mixed. The number of fatalities in crashes involving an impaired driver declined 3.7% in 2007 to 12,998. But the number of total traffic fatalities dropped 3.9%. So the percentage of all fatalities deemed alcohol-impaired ticked up slightly to 31.7%. That percentage has changed…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2008
  • Volume 25
  • Issue # 9
While alcohol beverage consumption, and beer drinking in particular, are widely believed to expand weight and waist size, a new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no association between an increase in waist circumference and drinking alcohol. This study of 43,500 Danish middle age adults (age 50 to 64) found this held true for both moderate and frequent drinkers. Though "drinking frequency was not associated with major waist loss," it was "inversely associated with major waist gain among both men and women" over a 5-year follow up period. Researchers determined that the "odds for a major waist gain" was highest for those adults in the lightest or non-drinking categories. That meant: "The lowest odds ratios for major waist gain according to drinking frequency was observed among daily drinking women." Women who reported drinking up to 14 to 20 drinks per week were 19% less likely to see an increase in waist size. Surprisingly perhaps, the risk of waist size increase was lower for women consuming 28 or more drinks per week compared to those who drank less than 1 per week. For men, the greatest risk reduction for increased waist size was for those who consumed 21-28…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2008
  • Volume 25
  • Issue # 4
"Evidence is accumulating to support the cardiovascular benefits of initiating moderate alcohol intake in middle aged nondrinkers." So wrote the authors of a new study of 7,700 adults which added even more support to the notion that doctors should think about advising at least some abstainers to start drinking moderately. The findings were straight forward and significant. During a six-year follow-up period of 45-64 yr-olds from 4 US communities, 6% of those adults started drinking moderately, 2 drinks/day or less for men, 1 drink/day or less for women. Those new drinkers "were 38% less likely than non-drinkers to have a cardiovascular event" during the follow up. The heart benefit was "independent of age, race, sex, body mass index" and previous cardiovascular conditions. Those who picked up the wine habit did especially well, enjoying a 68% reduced risk compared to non-drinkers. Those who drank other alcohol beverages had a 21% reduced risk, but that was not statistically significant. Another benefit among the new drinkers: "modest improvement in HDL cholesterol." While the authors note the "accumulating evidence" supporting advice to start drinking, they play it pretty cautious as well: "For carefully selected individuals, a 'heart healthy' diet may include limited alcohol consumption,…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2008
  • Volume 25
  • Issue # 3
A number of factors at Alcohol Policy 14 underscored the lack of momentum in public health advocates' efforts to achieve their goals. First, policy changes have been mostly small and/or local, not broad or national. Second, the meeting offered a notable lack of new ideas or new voices. Finally, unlike MADD for example, public health advocates have not cohered around a single, hard-hitting message to advance policy. Instead, AP 14 reflected multiple agendas, diffuse voices and lack of consensus. This diffusion may have resulted from the Conference theme: "Engaging States and Local Communities in Prevention Policies." The 2

Publishing Info

  • Year 2008
  • Volume 25
  • Issue # 2
On top of the 3 new studies that linked moderate drinking to better health noted in last week's Update, a trio of even more positive studies appeared this week. Danish researchers found that adults who neither consumed alcohol nor exercised had a 30%-49% higher risk for heart disease than those who "either exercise, drink or both," as reported by Medical News Today. Most important, the lead researcher suggested that abstention, not drinking, may actually be risky behavior. "Neither physical activity alone nor alcohol intake can completely reverse the increased risk associated with alcohol abstention and lack of physical activity. Thus both moderate to high levels of physical activity and a moderate alcohol intake are important for lowering the risk of fatal IHD and deaths from all causes." (Our emphasis.) That startling conclusion followed reports of a UK study that found adopting 4 healthy behaviors - non-smoking, 5 daily servings of fruits/vegetables, physical activity, and moderate alcohol consumption - "predict a 4-fold difference in total mortality in men and women," and prolong life an additional 14 years, compared to those who adopt none of those behaviors. A third study found that among patients who had survived an acute heart attack, moderate…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2008
  • Volume 25
  • Issue # 1