Diet and Health (Scientific American Special Online Issue by Scientific American

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The two groups would be followed for years in a search for eventual differences in cardiovascular disease and heart-related deaths. as well as in fetal alcohol syndrome. ) Heavy drinking also contributes to cardiovascular disorders. Too much alcohol raises the risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes too weak to pump efficiently; high blood pressure (itself a risk factor for CHD, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure); and hemorrhagic stroke, in which blood vessels rupture in or on the surface of the brain.

Bray. John Wiley & Sons, 1996. JANUARY 2004 COPYRIGHT 2004 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. The Serious Search originally published in August 2002 for an Anti-AgingPill In government laboratories and elsewhere, scientists are seeking a drug able to prolong life and youthful vigor. Studies of caloric restriction are showing the way By Mark A. Lane, Donald K. Ingram and George S. Roth s researchers on aging noted in a position statement this past May, no treatment on the market today has been proved to slow human aging— the buildup of molecular and cellular damage that increases vulnerability to infirmity as we grow older.

Alcohol offers specific enhancement of cardiovascular health, not general protection against all illness. And alcohol’s effect can be identified independent of known “confounders,” other alcoholrelated factors that could be responsible for a subject’s cardiovascular condition. The 30 percent reduction in risk is, perhaps surprisingly to some, less convincing evidence than the arguments above, because a strong unknown con- HOW ALCOHOL MIGHT PROTECT AGAINST CHD Alcohol Effect Probable Action Evidence Raises blood HDL cholesterol Removes and transports LDL cholesterol from vessel wall Solid supporting evidence; effect explains at least half of alcohol’s benefit Lowers blood LDL cholesterol Reduces level of one major CHD risk factor Evidence weak; effect probably not independent of diet Lowers the oxidation of LDL Prevents the plaque formation associated with LDL oxidation Largely hypothetical, although antioxidants are plentiful in red wine Lowers levels of fibrinogen in blood Lessens the risk of clot formation on atherosclerotic plaques Moderate supporting data Exerts other anticlotting actions: lessens platelet stickiness; raises levels of prostacylin; lowers levels of thromboxane Lessens the risk of clot formation on atherosclerotic plaques Inconsistent data; possible reversal of effect with heavy or binge drinking Lessens insulin resistance Lessens key risk factor for adult-onset diabetes and atherosclerosis Evidence comes from a small number of studies Lessens psychosocial stress Unclear No supporting data or likely mechanism Improves conditioning of heart muscle Imparts better resistance to damage from oxygen deprivation Preliminary supporting evidence 27 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN EXCLUSIVE ONLINE ISSUE COPYRIGHT 2004 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.

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