Individuals who drink alcohol in moderation (about one drink a day or less) are less likely to develop heart disease than those who drink no alcohol at all, according to a study.
Those who drink a small amount are 14-25% less likely to develop the condition than non-drinkers, the research led by Professor William Ghali from the University of Calgary in Canada found.
A paper led by Dr Susan Brien, also from the University of Calgary, found that moderate consumption of alcohol (up to one drink or 15g alcohol per day for women and up to two drinks or 30g alcohol per day for men) is good for health.
The researchers say that moderate amounts of alcohol significantly increase the levels of 'good' cholesterol circulating in the body and this has a protective effect against heart disease.
Brien's research concludes that it is the alcohol content that provides the health benefits, not the type of alcoholic beverage (wine, beer or spirits) that is drunk.
Professor Ghali concluded that the debate between the impact of alcohol on heart disease should now centre "on how to integrate this evidence into clinical practice and public health messages".
He added: "With respect to public health messages there may now be an impetus to better communicate to the public that alcohol, in moderation, may have overall health benefits that outweigh the risks in selected subsets of patients. Any such strategy would need to be accompanied by rigorous study and oversight of impacts."
The findings were published on bmj.com