Whereas earlier observational studies suggested that light alcohol intake may provide heart-related benefits, a large Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research analysis has shown that alcohol intake at all levels is associated with cardiovascular disease. According to the research study, any previously perceived benefits most likely occurred because of other lifestyle factors common among light to moderate drinkers.

Can Moderate Drinking Really Help Your Heart?

The study involved 371,463 adults from the UK Biobank, a vast biomedical database comprising in-depth health and genetic information about many UK residents. The participants had an average age of 57 and an average alcohol intake of 9.2 drinks a week. Consistent with previous studies, light to moderate drinkers were found to have the lowest risk of heart disease, followed by people who completely abstained from drinking. As expected, participants who drank heavily had a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

The researchers observed that light to moderate drinkers generally tended to have healthier lifestyles than abstainers, such as greater vegetable intake, more physical activity, and less smoking. Such lifestyle factors also played a major role in significantly lowering the risks of heart issues. 

By conducting extensive genetic analyses of samples obtained from the participants, the scientists found that individuals with genetic variants that indicated higher alcohol consumption was, in fact, more likely to consume more significant amounts of alcohol and to have hypertension and coronary artery disease. 

The investigations also unveiled that there were remarkable differences in heart disease risk across the spectrum of alcohol intake for both genders, with slight increases in risk when consuming between zero and seven drinks a week. However, there are more significant risks when progressing from 7 to 14 drinks, especially higher when consuming over 21 drinks a week.

These findings show that the relationship between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular risk is exponential rather than linear. So, whereas reducing alcohol consumption could benefit even people who have just one drink a day, the health gains of reducing alcohol intake are more significant and clinically meaningful in the case of people who drink more.

“The findings establish that alcohol consumption should not be recommended to improve cardiovascular health. Instead, reducing alcohol intake will likely lower cardiovascular risk in all individuals, though to different extents depending on one’s current level of consumption.

The study was reported in the journal JAMA Network Open.

About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Renu Bakshi AKA Fitness BuffhqPersonal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me age is just a number!”

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