Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Have some Madeira, my dear, the benefits are abundantly clear. Or Not

I admired its nose, the vanilla nut foretaste with a little hint of cherries, cumin and high-density lipoproteins—Every couple of meals or so, I will open up a bottle of wine—Big House Red is the vin ordinaire on my table—for medicinal purposes, of course. It's good for my heart. [Sonograms of my heart taken only last week show a splendid organ, chipper and active]. Studies showing a relationship between moderate dinking and lower risk of heart disease are aplenty and get wonderful publicity—as well they should.

Now along comes a bunch of smart-asses at UCSF School of Nursing who claim all those studies are wrong because of flawed methodology. Geez! They think having a good aged red with your steak is not responsible for good health; it is a result of good health. The work goes back about 15 years to that of A.G. Shaper in London, who observed that many people who abstain from alcohol do so because they are getting old, are sick or use drugs affected by alcohol. These people then go get themselves counted in the studies on heart disease and lo, the number of people with heart disease who do not drink goes up. It biases the results. Not a lot of people took him seriously, mostly because we don't want to. I'll bet he kicks his dog too.

But the research at UCSF, published online at the journal Addiction Research and Theory, say we should pay attention. The researchers looked at 54 published articles on drinking and health and found that many of them included just those kinds of subjects, people who had just quit drinking for whatever reason, among those who abstained. Only seven discounted those subjects and all seven showed no benefit to the heart.

There is, however, biological evidence that light drinking has a beneficial effect, raising the level of high-density lipoproteins, the good cholesterol and I am content to leave it at that. I have a 15-year-old bottle of Ahlgren cabernet to be opened next year. It will do my heart good.

To hell with them.

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