Specific gene provides health benefits for moderate drinkers

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Reduces risk of heart attack and boosts good cholesterol levels

Moderate alcohol consumption among people who have a specific version of a gene that metabolizes alcohol yields health benefits — less risk of heart disease and higher good cholesterol levels. “The study results support that it is the alcohol in alcoholic beverages that is responsible for the reduction in risk of heart disease, not other ingredients in alcoholic beverages or lifestyle factors associated with alcohol consumption,” said Lisa Hines, lead author. Hines is a graduate student in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The findings appeared in the February 22, 2001, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the study participants, those who consumed alcohol moderately had a lower risk of heart disease. However, among the moderate drinkers, those with the gene that breaks down alcohol more slowly, had higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and a greater reduction in risk for heart disease, compared to participants with the other version of the gene.