Key Findings on Alcohol Consumption and a Variety of Health Outcomes From the Nurses' Health Study

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Abstract

Objectives

To review critical contributions from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) on alcohol consumption and health outcomes.

Methods

We performed a narrative review of NHS (1980-2012) and NHS II (1989-2011) publications.

Results

Using detailed information on self-reported alcohol drinking patterns obtained approximately every 4 years combined with extensive information on diet, lifestyle habits, and physician-diagnosed health conditions, NHS investigators have prospectively examined the risks and benefits associated with alcohol consumption. Moderate intake, defined as up to 1 drink a day, is associated with a lower risk of hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, sudden cardiac death, gallstones, cognitive decline, and all-cause mortality. However, even moderate intake places women at higher risk for breast cancer and bone fractures, and higher intake increases risk for colon polyps and colon cancer.

Conclusions

Regular alcohol intake has both risks and benefits. In analyses using repeated assessments of alcohol over time and deaths from all causes, women with low to moderate intake and regular frequency (> 3 days/week) had the lowest risk of mortality compared with abstainers and women who consumed substantially more than 1 drink per day.

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