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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Even light alcohol intake could be harming your heart health, study suggests

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Drinking even a small amount of alcohol each week could be a risk to your health, according to a new study.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, the research found that consuming roughly seven drinks per week


Drinking less than 14 units a week, this is considered low-risk drinking, according to NHS Inform.

However, the study suggest that even ‘low risk drinking’ can be detrimental to cardiovascular health.

The research used UK Biobank data to analyse the health risks and link between alcohol intake and cardiovascular diseases -including hypertension as well as coronary artery disease.


Data analysis was conducted from July 2019 to January 2022.


For the purposes of the study, drinking groups were defined as:

  • abstainers (0 drinks per week)
  • light (0-8.4 drinks per week)
  • moderate (8.4-15.4 drinks per week)
  • heavy (15.4-24.5 drinks per week)
  • abusive ( more than 24.5 drinks per week)

The findings suggested that alcohol consumption of all amounts was associated with increased cardiovascular risk, but marked risk differences exist across levels of intake, including those accepted by current national guidelines.

The study suggests that even light drinkers were more at risk of developing cardiovascular health problems.

Although, the level of the risk was found to be relatively low when it comes to those who are ‘light’ drinkers.



The study split drinkers into light, moderate, heavy and abusive groups.

The risk then increases quite quickly when alcohol consumption surpasses this level – more than 8.4 drinks per week.

The researchers also found that light to moderate alcohol consumers exhibited healthier lifestyles than abstainers.

However, the research suggests that cardioprotective effects of light to moderate alcohol intake may be largely mediated by confounding lifestyle factors meaning that a healthy lifestyle in general may be more important that alcohol intake alone when drinking levels are considered less than ‘heavy’.

Study author Krishna G. Aragam , MD, MS, preventive cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told ScienceDaily: “The findings affirm that alcohol intake should not be recommended to improve cardiovascular health; rather, that reducing alcohol intake will likely reduce cardiovascular risk in all individuals, albeit to different extents based on one’s current level of consumption,”

Previously studies have outlined the benefits of consuming small amounts of alcohol within a balanced diet.

For example, a UK based study which analysed data from 312,400 patients on the UK biobank database, found ingredients in wine, such as antioxidants, could potentially reduce new-onset of the disease.

The research showed that drinking alcohol with meals could decrease your risk of developing the disease by 14 per cent, compared to eating meals without an alcoholic beverage.

Specifically, the benefits related to moderate wine consumption rather than other types of booze.

Moderate drinking is defined as one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage daily for women and up to two glasses daily for men

In contrast, researchers found that drinking more beer and spirits could actually increase your risk of developingtype 2 diabetes.

The study’s lead author, Hao Ma, a biostatistical analyst at the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre in New Orleans, USA, stated: “The effects of alcohol consumption on health have been described as a double-edged sword because of its apparent abilities to cut deeply in either direction – harmful or helpful, depending on how it is consumed.

“Very few studies have focused on other drinking details, such as the timing of alcohol intake.”

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