Many people justified their alcohol intake based on evidence that suggested alcohol may support heart health and minimise the onset of cardiovascular issues. Keeping the rule that ‘no one study should be considered on it’s own’ in mind, this new study has broken the social barrier by suggesting that alcohol may offer no heart health benefit after all. In fact, the new findings are quite to the contrary, the researchers found that reducing the amount of alcohol consumed , even for light to moderate drinkers, may improve heart health.
The findings of the study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine questions the findings of previous studies that suggest consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol may be cardioprotective i.e. benefit heart health! What makes this study particularly influential is the fact that is reviewed existing research on the area, drawing from 50 studies that investigated drinking and cardiovascular health in approx 260,000 people!
Particular gene leads to lower alcohol intake and better heart health
Yes, evidently there appears to be a gene called alcohol dehydrogenase 1B gene, which is thought to metabolise (breakdown) alcohol more rapidly. Those with this gene feel nauseous and suffer facial flushing, which typically leads to lower total alcohol intakes over time. Interestingly the people who consumed less alcohol (17% less to be precise) a week have an average of 10% less chance of coronary heart disease, as well as presenting with lower blood pressure and lower Body Mass Index (BMI). This new evidence directly contradicts previous research on alcohol intake and heart health. It is now believed that any exposure to alcohol can reduce heart health.
Michael Holmes, MD, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of Transplant Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania explains:
"For some time, observational studies have suggested that only heavy drinking was detrimental to cardiovascular health, and that light consumption may actually be beneficial. This has led some people to drink moderately based on the belief that it would lower their risk of heart disease. However, what we're seeing with this new study, which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomized clinical trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health."
So what to believe!?
It is no wonder people just say ‘sod science, I’m doing what I want because it changes all the time!’ (or words to that effect). However, it’s prudent to remember that this research isn’t based on just one study or one research finding…this has considered 50 others and come out with a consensus of opinion based on new research. This study was funded by ‘not for profit’ organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council, as well as being an international collaboration that included 155 investigators from around the world. This study packed a little punch, so for now, I’m listening to this!
M. V. Holmes, C. E. Dale, L. Zuccolo, R. J. Silverwood, Y. Guo, et al. (2014). Association between alcohol and cardiovascular disease: Mendelian randomisation analysis based on individual participant data. BMJ, 2014; 349 (jul10 6): g4164 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g4164
Science Daily, (2014). Drinking alcohol provides no heart health benefit, new study shows. Retrieved 14th July, 2014, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710151947.htm