Weekend Health Wrap-Up | February 26th, 2011

Posted on February 26, 2011


Good morning!  Here is this week’s selected health news (*spoiler* I hope you’re eating a big bowl of whole grains as you read this):

  • More evidence for alcohol’s cardiovascular benefits: I had to start out with everyone’s favorite – alcohol.  Once again, researchers have concluded that consumption of alcohol in moderation is associated with a reduced risk of multiple cardiovascular outcomes – and the association may be causal.  The J-shaped curve I’ve mentioned in the past holds true – that is, people who drink a little (about 1 drink per day) fare better than those who abstain and those who drink heavily.  The question is, how will physicians public health organizations alter their guidelines in light of the growing evidence favoring moderate alcohol consumption?

Adjusted relative risk (RR) for outcomes by daily alcohol intake, drinkers vs nondrinkers

End point <2.5 g/d, RR (95% CI) 2.514.9 g/d* RR (95% CI) 1529.9 g/d RR (95% CI)
CV mortality 0.71 (0.57-0.89) 0.77 (0.71-0.83) 0.75 (0.70-0.80)
Incident CHD 0.96 (0.86-1.06) 0.75 (0.65-0.88) 0.66 (0.59-0.75)
CHD mortality 0.92 (0.80-1.06) 0.79 (0.73-0.86) 0.79 (0.71-0.88)
Incident stroke 0.81 (0.74-0.89) 0.80 (0.74-0.87) 0.92 (0.82-1.04)
Stroke mortality 1.00 (0.75-1.34) 0.86 (0.75-0.99) 1.15 (0.86-1.54)
*About one drink per day

  • Whole grains important for longevity: I’m sometimes asked by friends or family, if I could only make one health recommendation, what would it be?  Eight times out of ten, I say “eat more fiber” (the rest of the time, I say “move”).  A large prospective study concluded that “Making fiber-rich food choices more often may provide significant health benefits.”  There were some exceptions:  the inverse association between fiber intake and cancer death was observed in men, but not women.  However, for all-cause mortality, those who ate the most fiber were 22% less likely to die than those who ate the least.  Further, the benefits were only associated with fiber from whole grains, leading researchers to conclude that “fiber isolates probably do not provide the same benefits as intact, whole grains.”
  • COPD increases shingles risk: If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the shingles vaccination may be a good idea (that is, if it’s covered by insurance).  The risk of developing shingles was found to be even higher for those with COPD who also took inhaled or oral steroids.  Other inflammatory conditions have been associated with developing shingles in recent years, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.  Aside from perhaps getting vaccinated, the smartest thing someone with COPD can do is quit smoking – not all smokers develop COPD, but upwards of 80% of those who have COPD developed it from smoking.

That’s all for now – have a great weekend!