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Is Everything You Knew About the Health Benefits of Booze Wrong?

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Like truffles and caffeine, alcohol has always been one of those things that seemed like a sin, but, in moderation, was actually a win. After all, heaps of research credit moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men) with a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and other conditions. Now, new research flips what you thought you knew on its head: Moderate boozing may only benefit people who carry a certain genetic variant, according to scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Researchers tested participants for a genetic variant located on the Cholesterylester transfer protein (CETP) gene, which affects HDL (good) cholesterol. They found that about 19 percent of the population had the genetic variant, called CETP TaqIB. Overall, those with the variant had a 29 percent decreased risk of heart disease compared to people without it. And, individuals who carried the variant and reported moderate drinking had a 70 to 80 percent reduced risk of heart disease compared to people with the variant and drank less.

More research is needed to understand why the variant may have a protective effect in moderate drinkers and whether it may guard against other diseases, too. Still, based on the finding, researchers suggest that the belief that moderate alcohol intake may benefit your health may be too sweeping, and may only apply to certain groups of people based on their genetic makeup. Since there’s no commercially available test to find out whether you carry the gene, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake and avoid binge drinking until researchers learn more, says study author Dag Thelle, M.D. Having trouble keeping track of how much you're drinking at the bar? This New App Tracks Alcohol Content in Cocktails!

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