Even as studies have consistently found an association between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced heart attack risk in men, an important question has persisted: What if the men who drank in moderation were the same individuals who maintained good eating habits, didn’t smoke, exercised and watched their weight?

How would you know that their reduced risk of myocardial infarction wasn’t the result of one or more of these other healthy habits?

A new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) helps answer this question. Reported in the Oct. 23, 2006, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the findings show for the first time that among men with healthy lifestyles, those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol – defined as between one-half and two drinks daily – had a 40 percent to 60 percent reduced risk of heart attack compared with healthy men who didn’t drink at all.

“This latest research speaks to how robust the link is between moderate drinking and heart attack risk,” explains lead author Kenneth Mukamal, MD, MPH, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The fact that we found the association [between alcohol consumption and heart attack] to be just as strong in this tightly controlled group of men as we’ve found it to be in more general studies suggests that physicians should not avoid alcohol consumption as a topic for discussion when talking with patients about ways to reduce their risk of myocardial infarction.”