Research has shown that healthy people can benefit from moderate alcohol consumption.

And a new analysis in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that patients who have already suffered a heart attack, stroke or another ischemic vascular event can reap these benefits, too.

Researchers analyzed the most important scientific studies performed during the last years. Eight in total in four Countries: United States, Sweden, Japan and Great Britain. Each study took into account patients already affected by an ischemic vascular event.

During the years following the disease onset, patients were followed by researchers to know which were the lifestyle habits, including alcohol consumption, able to avoid a new clinical event. The meta-analysis allowed to pool all those studies for a total of 16,351 people examined.

"We observed that regular and moderate consumption has beneficial effects even for people already affected by heart attack, or stroke. Not only they are less likely to be affected by similar diseases again, but all-cause mortality too resulted to be lower than in those who did not consume any alcoholic beverage, said" Simona Costanzo, epidemiologist and first author of the study .

The effect is very similar to that observed in healthy people. "Risk reduction - Costanzo argues - is about 20%. This means that one event out of five can be spared. It is a huge advantage, comparable to the one already recorded for healthy individuals".

The key word, of course, is moderation. "When we talk about moderate alcohol consumption, we mean something quite far from what we use to see in TV fictions – says Licia Iacoviello, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Epidemiology and responsible of the Moli-sani Project – We refer to moderation as drinking regularly, at low doses, within a healthy lifestyle, such as the Mediterranean diet.

A glass of wine or beer during meals has always been an integral part of the Mediterranean way of eating. Our research highlights another crucial issue: drinking has not only to be moderate, but also regular. A moderate consumption spread along the week is positive. The same amount of weekly alcohol, concentrated in a couple of days is definitely harmful".

"Despite these new positive results- argues Giovanni de Gaetano, Director of the Research Laboratories - we do believe that teetotallers, either healthy or ill, should not start drinking with the aim to earn more health. Our study, as those conducted by our group in the past, is not a kind of invitation to start drinking, but the recognition of a particular lifestyle.

This time we need to be cautious since we deal with sick people. We recommend to them to discuss with their own doctor the best choice in terms of alcoholic beverage consumption".

Citation: Costanzo et al., 'Alcohol Consumption and Mortality in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease', JACC, March 2010, 55:1339-1347; doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.01.006