Monday, August 29, 2011

Along with the beneficial effects of alcohol, here’s another health tidbit for you. In a presentation at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2011 Congress, British investigators reported that individuals who ate the most chocolate had a 37% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 29% lower risk of stroke compared with individuals who ate the least amount of chocolate.

In the study, published online August 29, 2011 in British Medical Journal, Dr Adriana Buitrago-Lopez and colleagues state: “Although overconsumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Our findings confirm this, and we found that higher levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

In this meta-analysis of six cohort studies and one cross-sectional study, overall chocolate consumption was reported, with investigators not differentiating between dark, milk, or white chocolate. Chocolate in any form was included, such as chocolate bars, chocolate drinks, and chocolate snacks, such as confectionary, biscuits, desserts, and nutritional supplements. Chocolate consumption was reported differently in the trials but ranged from never to more than once per day. Most patients included in the trials were white, although one study included Hispanic and African Americans and one study included Asian patients.

Overall, the pooled meta-analysis results showed that high levels of chocolate consumption compared with the lowest levels of chocolate consumption reduced the risk of any cardiovascular disease and stroke. There was no association between chocolate consumption and the risk of heart failure, and no association on the incidence of diabetes in women.

Personally, I’m waiting for chocolate martinis to have all my bases covered.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yippee: Light to moderate drinking seems to reduce the risk for dementia and cognitive decline, according to a new study published in the August issue of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

A meta-analysis of 143 studies on the effects of alcohol on the brain showed that moderate drinking, defined as no more than 2 drinks a day for a man and no more than 1 drink a day for a woman, reduced the risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia by 23%. Light to moderate drinking conferred a similar benefit, but heavy drinking (more than 3 - 5 drinks/day) was associated with a nonsignificantly higher risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Most of the studies did not distinguish between the different types of alcohol, but in a few studies, wine appeared to be more beneficial than beer or spirits. "It really seemed to
A number of explanations for the protective effect of moderate alcohol have been proposed. Some dementias are related to cardiovascular system problems, such as atherosclerosis, and alcohol may be protective because it raises the level of high-density lipoprotein (the good) cholesterol and might improve blood flow in the brain.

Medscape Medical News asked Anton P. Porsteinsson, MD, the William B. and Sheila Konar professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine to comment on this study. "This is a well-done meta analysis. The findings are consistent with other meta analyses that have been done. Am I tremendously surprised at the findings? No, because they are looking at the same pool of studies," Dr. Porsteinsson said. "The fact that they approach it in slightly different ways and yet find similar outcomes makes me confident that this is what the data are actually signaling to us: that very modest alcohol consumption is protective," he said.

The next step is to figure out how moderate alcohol consumption exerts its protective effect.
"Is it some direct effect of the alcohol on the brain? Are people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol different in some way, in their diet, or their level of exercise? Are low concentrations of alcohol neuroprotective? Is it through some metabolic impact?" Dr. Porsteinsson said. Also interesting was that alcohol appeared to protect against all types of dementia, he said. "This makes it less likely to have a direct effect on beta amyloid or tau (a suspected cause of Alzheimer's Disease), but more of a global effect. It is an interesting review. They made it a pleasure to read."