Gene Emery, Reuters »

Eliminating most alcohol consumption dramatically cuts the number of episodes of the potentially-deadly heart rhythm disturbance among moderate and heavy drinkers, according to results of a six-month Australian study of 140 volunteers published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

While atrial fibrillation (AF), or Afib, reappeared in 73% of the people who averaged 13 drinks per week, the rate dropped to 53% among patients in the abstinence group – who weren’t supposed to drink at all but, on average, consumed two drinks weekly.

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The findings are not completely surprising. Population-based research had suggested that every drink (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5 ounce of distilled spirits) increases the risk of atrial fibrillation by 8%. The new randomized trial was designed to be a definitive test.

Related » Alcohol Abstinence in Drinkers with Atrial Fibrillation » The New England Journal of Medicine