Drinking is good for you, but only in moderation

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Drinking is good for the heart, but only if the alcohol is taken little and often, a study has found. One or two drinks a day taken on five or six days a week reduces the risk of a heart attack by 70 per cent in both men and women. But binge-drinking, in which nine or more drinks are consumed on one or two days a week more than doubles the risk.

The findings, based on a study of 11,500 heart attack patients who were compared with 6,000 control patients, also shows that "drink holidays" - one or two alcohol-free days a week - are beneficial for health. People who drank daily were at higher risk than those who limited themselves to five or six days.

The authors, from the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, say the results may help resolve the dispute about whether drinking is good for health. Some studies have shown a benefit while others have not, but the reason may be that they have grouped together people with entirely different drinking habits, the they write in the British Medical Journal.