An interesting new study published in the European Heart Journal talks about how moderate amounts of alcohol could be beneficial to the heart by reducing the risk of heart failure and Atherosclerosis. Earlier studies and evidence already suggests that alcohol consumption in limited quantities is good for the heart. Now, this large study of nearly 15,000 men and women, shows that drinking up to seven drinks a week in early to middle age is associated with a 20% lower risk of men developing heart failure in the future when compared to people who did not drink at all, and a more modest 16% reduced risk for women. Dr Scott Solomon, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Senior Physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA, Dr Alexandra Gonçalves, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and colleagues analyzed data from 14,629 people aged between 45-64 years who had been recruited to the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study between 1987 and 1989 in four communities in the USA. They followed the participants for 24-25 years to the end of 2011, and they questioned them about their alcohol consumption at the start and at each of the three subsequent visits made at three-yearly intervals.
The researchers defined a drink as one that contains 14g of alcohol, equivalent to approximately one small (125ml) glass of wine, just over half a pint or a third of a litre of beer, and less than one shot of liquor such as whisky or vodka. The study participants were divided into six categories: abstainers (people who recorded having drunk no alcohol at every visit by the researchers), former drinkers, people who drank up to seven drinks a week, or between 7-14 drinks, 14-21 drinks, or 21 or more drinks a week. During the follow-up period 1271 men and 1237 women developed heart failure. The lowest rate of heart failures occurred in those drinking up to 7 drinks per week and the highest rate was seen among former drinkers.
However, when the researchers looked at death from any cause, there was an increased risk of death of 47% for men and 89% of women who reported consuming 21 or more drinks a week at the start of the study. Professor Solomon said: “These findings suggest that drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of heart failure and may even be protective. No level of alcohol intake was associated with a higher risk of heart failure. However, heavy alcohol use is certainly a risk factor for deaths from any cause. The people who were classified as former drinkers at the start of the study had a higher risk of developing heart failure and of death from any cause when compared with abstainers. This could be related to the reasons why they had stopped drinking in the first place, for instance because they had already developed health problems that might have made them more likely to go on to develop heart failure.” The protective effect of moderate drinking were more marginal in women than in men and the authors think this may be due to the fact that women metabolise alcohol in a different way to men and it can affect them differently.
The original publication can be read at: http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/ehj/early/2015/01/17/eurheartj.ehu514.full.pdf
Disclaimer: This article does not reflect any personal views of the authors/editors