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US heart association cautions on wine-health advice

Published:  23 July, 2008

Drinkers advised to consult Doctors

The American Heart Association (AHA), one of the USA's leading independent advisers on risk factors for heart disease, has warned physicians there is only "supportive not definitive" data indicating that moderate drinking can dramatically reduce coronary heart disease and improve longevity. The AHA did not change its overall stance that drinking is a matter that should be privately discussed between doctors and patients, but it appeared to dampen efforts to encourage doctors to consider moderate drinking as part of a healthy lifestyle. It called for additional research on the commonly held theory that moderate drinking, specifically of wine, has protective effects against heart disease. The Wine Institute quickly publicly endorsed the call for more research. "Without a large-scale, randomized, clinical end-point trial of wine intake, there is little current justification to recommend alcohol (or wine specifically) as a cardio-protective strategy," wrote Ira Goldberg, a member of the AHA nutrition committee and professor of medicine at Columbia University. While offering no new evidence to the contrary, Goldberg argued that the existing science in support of moderate wine drinking is no more convincing than controversial scientific claims of the effectiveness of vitamin E, also widely believed to be protective against disease. "Despite the biological plausibility and observational data in this regard, it should be kept in mind that these are insufficient to prove causality," wrote Goldberg. "There are numerous examples in the cardiovascular literature of studies that have documented consistent population and mechanistic data that have not held up in clinical trials, eg beta carotene, vitamin E and hormone replacement therapy. It is impossible to adequately adjust for factors related to human behavior that cannot be measured in observational designs." Patrick Campbell of the Coalition for Truth and Balance, which wants federal authorities to approve a label statement advising consumers to check with their doctors for information on moderate drinking, said his group was actually "in sync" with the basic message of the AHA: talk to your doctor.