Frequent drinking is an effective way of preventing a coronary, unless you are a woman. Men who drink alcohol every day have a lower risk of heart disease than those who drink once a week or less, a study found. But for women, a weekly drink is as effective as a daily one; there is no gain from more frequent drinking. It is well known that moderate drinking protects against heart disease but most research has been done on men.

Researchers compared the impact of alcohol on heart disease in more than 50,000 men and women. They found women who drank at least one day a week had a 36 per cent reduced risk of heart disease than those who drank less frequently or not at all, about the same as those who drank every day. But the risks for men declined with increased frequency of drinking. Those who drank one day a week had a 7 per cent reduced risk and those who drank daily cut their risk by 41 per cent.

The researchers published their findings in the British Medical Journal. The study was done in Denmark on 28,000 women and 25,000 men aged from 50 to 65. The women had an average of five and a half drinks a week, half the amount the men had.

An editorial in the BMJ warned that the participants were middle-aged and at higher risk of heart disease, extremes of drinking may not have been captured and the observational nature of the study meant other explanations were possible.