The finding comes from a long-term study of nearly 12,000 male doctors, dentists, and pharmacists with high blood pressure.
Many doctors now warn men with high blood pressure not to drink alcohol, which is known to raise blood pressure. That recommendation may have to change, say researchers Joline W.J. Beulens, MSc, of the University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands, and colleagues.
Every four years from 1986 to 2002, the men in the Dutch study filled out questionnaires about alcohol use, diet, and health.
Men who drank moderately — one or two drinks per day — had a lower risk of heart attack. However, their risk of heart disease and death from any cause was no lower than that of men who did not drink.
"Men with hypertension who drink moderately and safely may not need to change their drinking habits," Beulens and colleagues conclude.
In an editorial accompanying the study, National Cancer Institute researcher Anne C.M. Thiebaut, Ph.D., and colleagues warn doctors and patients to take the findings with a grain of salt. Thiebaut and colleagues note that self-report surveys—particularly those on nutrition — are notoriously prone to reporting errors. That is, people who actually consume very little of something often over-report their consumption. And those who actually consume a great deal of something often under-report.
This is particularly true of surveys on alcohol use.
"The uncertainties surrounding measurement error should send a strong message to those who formulate recommendations about nutrition," Thiebaut and colleagues suggest. "The discretion of silence may be preferable to the valor of setting recommendations."
The Beulens study and the Thiebaut editorial appear in the January issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
SOURCES: Beulens, J. Annals of Internal Medicine, January 2007; Vol. 146: pp. 10-19. Thiebaut, A. Annals of Internal Medicine, January 2007; Vol. 146: pp. 65-67.
By Daniel DeNoon
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D