Q: I love wine, but I don't drink it often. My wife said I should start drinking at a more moderate level for health reasons, but is that a good enough reason?
A: Kenneth Mukamal, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is a respected researcher in the field of alcohol consumption and its impact on the human body, especially on the circulatory system. He is also a doctor who sees patients. His perspective:
"I don't personally suggest that people begin drinking, nor do I inherently discourage it. I think it's reasonable to consider modest, frequent alcohol intake, say 1 drink every 1 or 2 nights, as part of a healthful lifestyle, but in fairness, as a primary care physician, we tend to spend more time thinking about lifestyle choices that have more wide-ranging effects, like smoking cessation, weight loss and physical activity. For someone with low HDL cholesterol, drinking might well be a reasonable option, and in that situation, the beverage choice doesn't seem to matter. I think the jury is still out on whether there are specific health benefits to wine, and for heart disease the evidence seems to support a primary effect of ethanol itself, but wine does have the advantage of fewer calories over regular beer, and a lower alcohol concentration relative to spirits."
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