Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities
The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy, 5:23
The vast majority of research concerns the relationship between alcohol consumption and coronary heart disease. In recent years, however, new evidence for the beneficial effects of alcohol concerning other medical conditions has arisen.
Research by Brenner in 1999 demonstrated an inverse correlation between alcohol consumption and Helicobacter pylori infection. That is, those who drank less alcohol had a higher rate of infection with the organism. It should be born in mind, however, that the conventional medical opinion sees alcohol as an irritant, and therefore more likely to induce stomach inflammation.
Type II diabetes
A large epidemiological study by Umed involved 20 951 US physicians as subjects. Some results published this year demonstrated a decreased risk of type II diabetes with in those that ingested alcohol, at amounts varying from two drinks per week up to a drink a day.
In 1999 Berger published results from another large epidemiological study involving 21 870 US male physicians. The results demonstrated that there was an association between taking more than one drink per week and a reduced risk of ischaemic stroke. There was no association between alcohol intake and haemorrhagic stroke, which is a different pathological entity.
Female bone density
In 1999 Feskanich published results of a study of 188 women, which was adjusted for confounders. Spinal bone density was shown to be higher in those that consume alcohol compared with non-drinkers.
Benign prostatic hypertrophy
More recent results published in 1999 by Platz concerned 24 439 male health professionals, in a study controlled for confounding variables. There was a reduced risk of benign prostatic hypertrophy with a moderate intake of alcohol compared with those who abstain.
As with coronary heart disease, however, alcohol ingestion does not top the list of protective mechanisms in any of these diseases. A more sure way to reduce the risk of many of these diseases, especially ischaemic stroke, is to quit smoking and follow a healthy lifestyle, eat a sensible diet and take regular exercise. Anyone planning this should discuss it with their general practitioner.
It's safe to say that, whilst very interesting, none of the above evidence should induce abstainers to take up drinking, just for the health benefits.