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The Relationship between Type of Alcoholic Drinks Consumed and Death from Various Causes FREE

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Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(6):I-22. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-133-6-200009190-00003
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Many studies have suggested that death rates are lower for people who drink low to moderate amounts of alcohol than for people who do not drink alcohol at all and those who drink heavily. However, studies have not been able to determine whether death rates differ for people who drink mostly beer, mostly wine, or mostly hard liquor.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To examine the relationship between types of alcoholic beverages consumed and death rates from heart disease, cancer, and all causes.

Who was studied?

The researchers studied 13,064 men and 11,459 women 20 to 98 years of age who lived in Copenhagen, Denmark. Study patients had participated in three large surveys about health issues done in Copenhagen since the 1960s.

How was the study done?

All surveys asked participants about their drinking patterns, including amount and type of alcohol consumed. Using this information, the researchers estimated weekly alcohol intake for all participants and classified them as nondrinkers (< 1 drink per week), light drinkers (1 to 7 drinks per week), persons who had 8 to 12 drinks per week or 22 to 35 drinks per week, and heavy drinkers (> 35 drinks per week). The surveys also collected information about smoking, education, physical activity, and body size, which allowed researchers to take these factors into account in their analysis. The researchers followed all participants from entry into the studies until they died, moved out of Denmark, or were lost to follow-up. They used Danish national death registry data to identify who was still alive at the end of the study. For participants who died, the researchers obtained information about cause of death from the Danish National Board of Health.

What did the researchers find?

During the study, 4,833 persons died. Compared with nondrinkers, light drinkers who avoided wine had a slightly lower risk for death, but the risk was even lower for light drinkers who drank wine. Heavy drinkers who avoided wine were at greater risk for death than were heavy drinkers who drank wine. Wine drinkers had a lower risk for death from heart disease and cancer than did non–wine drinkers.

What were the limitations of the study?

It is possible that it is not wine drinking itself but some other characteristic of people who drink wine (for example, the types of food they eat or their income levels) that allows them to live longer than people who don't drink wine. Information about drinking patterns came entirely from a survey; this could be a problem since people may not report their own drinking patterns accurately. This study included only persons from Denmark; the relationship between alcohol drinking and risk for death may be different in other countries.

What are the implications of the study?

This study suggests, but does not prove, that there is a beneficial effect from drinking wine compared with other types of alcoholic drinks.

Summaries for Patients are a service provided by Annals to help patients better understand the complicated and often mystifying language of modern medicine.

Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician.

The summary below is from the full report titled “Type of Alcohol Consumed and Mortality from All Causes, Coronary Heart Disease, and Cancer.” It is in the 19 September 2000 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 133, pages 411-419). The authors are M Grønbæk, U Becker, D Johansen, A Gottschau, P Schnohr, HO Hein, G Jensen, and TIA Sørensen.

Summaries for Patients are a service provided by Annals to help patients better understand the complicated and often mystifying language of modern medicine.

Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician.

The summary below is from the full report titled “Type of Alcohol Consumed and Mortality from All Causes, Coronary Heart Disease, and Cancer.” It is in the 19 September 2000 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 133, pages 411-419). The authors are M Grønbæk, U Becker, D Johansen, A Gottschau, P Schnohr, HO Hein, G Jensen, and TIA Sørensen.

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