Sunday, September 25, 2011

Moderate alcohol consumption reduces asthma risk

A rather surprising study result, presented at a scientific convention in Amsterdam, shows that moderate intake of alcoholic drinks reduce the chance of developing asthma. Participants who rarely or never drink were found to have an 1.4 times higher chance of obtaining the disease, compared to people who drink moderately, at an average of 1 to 6 units per week. In contrast, heavy drinking is associated with an 1.2 times higher risk of asthma development, but their risk is, surprisingly, still lower than those who rarely or never drink. Before you indulge in binge drinking, excessive intake of alcohol is of course still related to developing other health problems.
The result is rather surprising, as previous studies have found a link between excessive alcohol intake and  increased incidence of asthma attacks. For their study, the researchers followed almost 20.000 twins for a total of 8 years. It is therefore likely that there is a difference between short term and long term effects of alcohol on asthma. 

In related news, a different study on asthma risk factors showed that belly fat is associated with an increased risk on asthma. A high waste circumference is associated with a 1.44 times higher risk of acquiring asthma. Participants who not only have a high amount of belly fat, but are also generally obese, were found to have an 1.81 times higher risk. In addition, belly fat and obesity are, of course, related to other health problems. The researchers followed more than 20.000 participants for about 11 years.

Neither of the two studies looked into the mechanisms underlying the outcome of the study. The results are surprising, as there seems no direct biological relation between these factors. It is known that high body fat can increase inflammation, and asthma is characterized by chronic inflammation of the airways, highlighting a possible link. Why alcohol intake can be either beneficial or non-beneficial still seems a mystery.

It seems that the old saying "drink in moderation" still holds true.

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