After plenty of us raised a glass to the news that heavy drinkers live longer than abstainers, we drained that glass ... then got really pensive ... then started wondering, hey, how is that possible? Brian Palmer digs into the mystery for Slate, finding that booze seems to decrease one's risk of heart disease and diabetes, though researchers don't really know how. They've pretty much determined that two alcoholic beverages a day increase our levels of HDL, or "good cholesterol," by 5% to 10%—making it better for HDL levels than exercising or quitting smoking.
And while some say that HDL boost is equal to a 10% drop in heart disease risk, several studies haven't been able to find a link between it and reduced heart attacks. Other, non-ironclad studies have found that booze may reduce clotting, improve your heart's ability to efficiently pump blood, and improve insulin sensitivity. Or people who drink in moderation could just be a healthy bunch.