12 January - 20 June 2016

Alcohol and cardiovascular health

16 July 14

A study carried out by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Perelman School of Medicine (Pennsylvania) has suggested that even light drinking could be detrimental to cardiovascular health. This contradicts some previous studies, that have indicated that one drink a day could actually be beneficial.

The work reviewed data from over 50 studies involving over 260,000 people from around the world. Drinking habits were assessed by various methods: daily-intake questionnaires, history of binge drinking and genetic markers. In their analysis, researchers discovered a link between cardiovascular health and level of drinking, whether it be heavy, moderate or light. The analysis indicated that individuals who consume 17% less alcohol per week have on average of 10% reduction of risk of heart disease, and also lower blood pressure and body mass index.

The individuals identified were those who carry a variant of the 'alcohol dehydrogenase 1B' gene which is known to break down alcohol more rapidly than normal, hence causing unpleasant symptoms including nausea and facial flushing. This has been found to lead to lower levels of alcohol consumption over time. By using this genetic marker as an indicator of lower alcohol consumption, the researchers were able to identify links between these individuals and improved cardiovascular health.

The new findings could be vital to our understanding of the effects of alcohol and could have lasting implications; it is possible that previous studies have led to an increase in moderate drinking, partly due to a belief that it would lower risk of heart disease. However, although important, experts caution that further investigation is required, suggesting that the study be repeated with a larger number of people. [Telegraph, Eurekalert]

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