24 April 1998

Good News For Booze - If You're Female

Whenever researchers announce that booze may have (in whatever limited way) beneficial effects on health, pub-goers and lone tipplers alike heave a collective sigh of relief. Livers, meanwhile, continue to groan as yet more vodkas and fortified wines are guzzled "as medicine". Does alcohol protect against artery disease? Nobody really knows, but it's as good a justification as any to have another drink.

Cue the latest findings from the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis Study, where data from 577 symptom-free workers aged 40 to 60 may show a "significant" relation between total alcohol intake and fractionally less thickness of the wall of the large carotid artery in the neck.

But there's a catch: according to the researchers, the "anti-atherosclerotic" role of alcohol appears to be restricted to women. Men, sadly, seem immune to drink's protective effects.

The findings suggest that wine may be of greatest benefit to women, though as Kathleen Dwyer of the University of Southern California readily admits, the results are still "problematic" and need further clarification.