Moderate alcohol consumption may lower risk of heart failure, a new study says

A new study by researchers at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, examined the effects of alcohol on the heart.

The first study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, looked at how alcohol affects the risk of heart failure.

The researchers recruited 60,665 participants between 1995 and 1997 and monitored their alcohol consumption and medical history. A total of 1,588 of the participants developed heart failure during that period, with the highest risk found in those who rarely or never drank or those who drank excessively.

The study found that those who drank moderately, three to five drinks per week had a 33 percent lower risk of heart failure compared to those who don’t drink or drank very little. Additionally, the researchers found that heart failure risk was reduced with more frequent drinking; subjects who drank alcohol five times or more a month had a 21% lower risk of heart failure, compared with non-drinkers and those who rarely drank, while participants who drank one to five times monthly had a 2% lower risk of heart failure.

The type of beverage consumed (beer, wine, spirits, etc) did not appear to make a difference to the reduced risk of heart failure.

In a second study published in the International Journal of Cardiology, 58,827 participants’ self-reported drinking habits were monitored and their incidence of heart attack up until 2008. In this group, 2,966 experienced a heart attack between 1995 and 2008. For every additional one drink a person consumed, the heart failure risk diminished by 28 per cent.

“It’s primarily the alcohol that leads to more good cholesterol, among other things,” the study’s co-author, Imre Janszky, a social medicine professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said in a press release. “But alcohol can also cause higher blood pressure. So it’s best to drink moderate amounts relatively often.”

Researchers found that the risk of heart failure increased when a person consumes more than five drinks per week. According to the authors, long-term alcohol abuse weakens and thins the heart muscle causing the heart to struggle pumping blood efficiently. Janszky stressed that the key to reaping the benefits of alcohol consumption is doing it in moderation.

“I’m not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time,” Janszky said. “We’ve only been studying the heart, and it’s important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart.”

Source: Janszky I, G é mes K, and Ahnve S, et al. Light-to-moderate drinking and incident heart failure—the Norwegian HUNT Study. International Journal of Cardiology. 2016.
Gemes K, Janszky L, Laugsand LE, et al. Alcohol consumption is associated with a lower incidence of acute myocardial infarction: results from a large prospective population-based study in Norway. Journal of Internal Medicine. 2016.

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