Arthur Klatsky M.D.
Arthur L. Klatsky, BA (Yale University), MD (Harvard University) is a Senior Consultant in Cardiology and an Adjunct Investigator at the Division of Research at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Oakland, California with which he has been affiliated for forty one years. For a number of years he carried the dual responsibilities of being chief of the Division of Cardiology as well as the principal investigator in a world famous ongoing research study. He served as Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Oakland from 1978 to 1994, and as Director of the Coronary Care Unit from 1968 to 1990.

Since 1977 he has been Principal Investigator of a series of studies of the relations between drinking alcoholic beverages and health. He has written and lectured extensively on relationships of alcohol consumption to cardiovascular conditions. His 1974 article "Alcohol consumption before myocardial infarction: Results from the Kaiser-Permanente epidemiologic study of myocardial infarction" (Ann Intern Med; 81:294-301) was the first published epidemiologic report of an inverse relationship between alcohol drinking and coronary disease and was cited by the NIAAA in 1995 as one of 16 "seminal" articles in alcohol research. Ever since that time, governments, prestigious medical journals and public health policy groups like the American Heart Association have all turned to Dr. Arthur Klatsky for consultation about alcohol and health. Hardly an article is published in literature on this subject without his name among the references. Infact, more than sixty studies have been published confirming Klatsky’s surprising report that, as he puts it, "Abstinence can be hazardous to some persons’ health." His studies of the relationship between drinking and heart problems led Klatsky to be one of the first to present the now- famous U-shaped curve, in which graphic data about drinking follows a U-shaped pattern. Moderate drinkers, with the lowest risk, are at the bottom of the U, while abstainers and heavy drinkers face higher risks. In 1992, he received the first Thomas B. Turner Award for Research Excellence by the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation. In 1995 the National Academies of Practice named him aDistinguished Practitioner. Since 1997, he has been an Associate Editor of The Permanente Journal. He was a 2000-2001 Health Forum Cardiovascular Health Fellowship Awardee.

Arthur Klatsky comments on his lifetime experience in giving advice about alcohol and health: "The people I see are mostly middle-aged or older persons at high risk of dying." Unless they have a history or special risk of problem drinking by this point in their lives, I know they are unlikely to become heavy drinkers. So if my patients can benefit from light drinking, I advise them to do so. It’s much more difficult to predict among risk or benefit for younger healthy people. I believe in advising people about alcohol on a one-on-one basis. It’s very difficult for governments or public health officials to make broad, sweeping statements about alcohol consumption that apply to everyone." However, Dr. Klatsky concurs with the federal government’s recommendation that moderate drinking means no more than one drink per day for women (12g) and no more than two drinks per day for men.

Professor. R. Curtis Ellison, who helped uncover the French Paradox, says of Klatsky "Arthur Klatsky has probably done more than any other scientist to advance our knowledge about the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption. His background in cardiology made him appreciate the striking reduction in coronary heart disease he observed in moderate alcohol consumers. He was appropriately cautious in interpreting his data but has persisted in presenting it clearly and consistently over the years to the scientific community."

"No one should drink as a primary way to protect themselves against heart disease," Klatsky maintains. "To avoid heart disease: Stay thin, don’t smoke, exercise, maintain a low fat diet, control any problems with high blood pressure and diabetes, and — maybe drink moderately —but as part of a whole constellation of healthful habits." Klatskyruns four miles at least four days a week and until recently, when his knees began to protest, ran marathons. He also hedges his bets by having wine with dinner nearly every night.

Despite his own drinking habits, Klatsky does not believe that the fruit of the vine is a magic potion with superior health benefits. He speculates that wine comes out looking better in some studies, including several of his own, for two main reasons. His own published research data on Kaiser enrollees reveals that wine drinkers are a more health-conscious lot to begin with. The Californian wine drinkers tended to exercise more, smoke less and were leaner than their beer- and spirits-drinking or abstaining counterparts. Whether the wine was red or white made no difference.

"Wine drinkers tend to be more educated yuppie types with more regular habits and many things going in their favor. Wine drinkers also tend to have only a glass or two with dinner" he says. Klatsky points out that the Honolulu Heart Study and the Munich Heart Study found beer to be quite protective. "The fact is people usually don’t drink brandy or Scotch with their meals. Nothing would please me more than if wine were ound to be the most protective, but right now I’d say if someone likes beer they shouldn’t switch to wine for health reasons. The pattern of drinking may turn out be one of the most important factors, and it’s very hard to study people’s habits...There’s a general tendency by many persons to assume that everything we like is bad for us. I am pleased by the fact that we found out that something people like is actually good for them."

AIM is honoured to welcome Dr Klatsky to its Social, Scientific and Medical Council, which has replaced the Editorial Board forthwith.