A couple of glass of wine a day
may be good for circulation in the legs, according to a
study published in the Jan. 1 issue of the American
Journal of Epidemiology .
According to the research, those who consumed
moderate amounts of alcohol showed a lower risk than non-drinkers
of developing lower extremity arterial disease (LEAD), a
condition in which the blood vessels in the leg become damaged.
Several previous studies have already shown
that light to moderate drinkers have lower risks of heart
disease than non-drinkers. But not much has been done to
study the effect of alcohol consumption and LEAD.
In people suffering with LEAD, the inner
lining of the arterial blood vessels in the legs becomes
damaged, potentially leading to a build-up of cholesterol,
which can impede blood flow and harden the tissue, creating
atherosclerosis. As LEAD progresses, the blocked arteries
can cause discomfort, cramps or pain in the hips, thighs
or calves, especially while exercising.
'LEAD affects about 10 to 15 percent of
older adults and is increasingly recognized to have consequences
beyond the classic pain with walking,' says alcohol-and-health
researcher Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Centre in Boston, who led the study.
Data relating to 5,635 participants who
took part in an earlier Cardiovascular Health Study, conducted
from 1989 to 1999 examining Medicare-eligible adults living
in four different U.S. areas was pulled out.
The subjects had reported their weekly
drinking habits, and were classified as consuming less than
one drink per week, one to 13 per week or 14 or more drinks
per week. During the course of the study, the volunteers
underwent leg-artery examinations by clinicians using a
standard test that measures blood pressure at the ankle
both before and after a five-minute treadmill workout.
A total of 172 cases of LEAD were documented
during the study. Mukamal and his team then compared those
cases to the drinking habits of the study's participants.
The researchers found that those who drank
one to 13 servings of alcohol per week were 44 percent less
likely to develop LEAD than non-drinkers. Those who drank
less than one drink per week or 14 drinks per week or more
showed a similar LEAD risk as non-drinkers.
Dr. Curt Ellison, professor of medicine
and public health at Boston University Medical School, who
first gained prominence when he appeared on '60 Minutes'
with Prof Serge Renaud when 'The French Paradox' was coined,
is not surprised with the results. He has been involved
in several studies which have demonstrated the positive
benefits for heart with moderate wine drinking. Talking
of the latest Mukamal study he said, "These findings
support many other papers suggesting that moderate alcohol
intake may lower the risk of vascular disease at sites other
than the heart and the brain."
Mukamal noted that LEAD and the potential
preventive measures are only now coming in the radar screen
of the medical research community; the number of cases being
diagnosed is on the rise. As has become a standard clause
with such studies, he cautioned that more research is needed
among people with LEAD.