Two studies within the past six months have shown moderate alcohol consumption to improve cardiovascular health. Although excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and other conditions associated with intoxication, scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm believe that just the right amount of regular alcohol drinking could actually benefit heart health.
In a pair of complementary studies published in the International Journal of Cardiology
and the Journal of International Medicine
, researchers from both institutions observed thousands of people with various drinking habits, looking for a pattern between alcohol consumption and heart health. Moderate and regular drinking, such as consuming 3 to 5 drinks a week, reduced the risk of heart failure by 33 percent as compared to people who rarely or never drank alcohol.
But what about past studies where alcohol consumption has been continuously linked to bad heart health? Imre Janszky, PhD, from NTNU and leader of both studies, expected questions like this.
“In countries like France and Italy, very few people don't drink. It raises the question as to whether earlier findings can be fully trusted, if other factors related to non-drinkers might have influenced research results. It may be that these are people who previously had alcohol problems, and who have stopped drinking completely.”
To avoid potential discrepancies similar to those from past studies, both studies were conducted in Norway, where there is a significant percent of the population that does not drink at all, or at least drinks very rarely.
The study from the International Journal of Cardiology
followed 60,665 people for over ten years, keeping record of who developed heart failure and who did not. None of the participants had any incidence of heart attack at the start of the study.
Less than five percent of the participants developed heart failure during the study, and the researchers found that there was a higher risk of heart failure for two distinct groups: very rare drinkers/people who do not drink at all and people with drinking problems.
“It's important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart,” said Janszky. “But that doesn't mean it's necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart.”
Janszky’s research leads him to believe that whether it is wine, liquor, or beer, drinking in moderation could lower cholesterol and otherwise boost heart health. However, “moderation” can be a tricky term to define. Identifying the “sweet spot” of alcohol consumption is vital for balancing a healthy lifestyle and avoiding the negative side effects of alcohol consumption, which Janszky fully acknowledges.
“Alcohol can also cause higher blood pressure. So it is best to drink moderate amounts relatively often."
Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology