Alcohol Consumption Directly Linked to Heart Disease, New Study Shows

The quantity of alcohol you consume on a weekly basis is directly correlated to risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), a new study shows. Previous studies regarding whether consuming less alcohol is associated with a lower risk of CVD have yielded varying results. With this new research published in Current Developments in Nutrition, however, it appears that the consuming minimal alcohol is associated with a much lower risk of CVD.

Lead author Xinyuan Zhang of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University also noted that “few studies have comprehensively examined the potential impact of alcohol consumption on diverse disease outcomes.”

Zhang and colleagues’ study aimed to analyze how the magnitude of alcohol consumption contributes to the risk of developing chronic diseases such as CVD (including stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation), cancers, and mortality. To do so, they first obtained a sample of 83,732 Chinese adults aged 18 to 96 years.

These individuals were members of the Kailuan Study conducted from 2006-2007 and had no history of CVD or cancer. These participants were grouped into six categories based on self-reported alcohol consumption in units of grams of ethanol per week (0, 1-25, 26-150, 151-350, 351-750, and >750 g/wk). Cases of CVD, cancer, and mortality were confirmed through review of medical records. If any three of these outcomes occurred during follow-up, the patient was deemed to have major chronic disease.

At a median follow-up of 10.0 years, the researchers found that there were 6,411 incidences of CVD, 2,947 cancer cases, and 6,646 deaths. When compared to the group that consumed zero grams of alcohol, adjusted hazard ratios of 0.72, 0.83, and 0.88 were found for consuming 1–25, 26–150, and 151–350 grams of ethanol a week, respectively.

Those who consumed over 750 grams of ethanol a week were found to have a hazard ratio of 1.13 for chronic disease and 1.51 for cancer, which was found to be statistically significant. Subgroup analyses of alcoholic beverage type, work occupation, men, age over 50 years, and non-smokers. The researchers concluded that light to moderate alcohol consumption has a beneficial effect compared to heavy consumption for major chronic disease.

This work was supported by a start-up grant from the College of Health and Human Development and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University, as well as the Institute for CyberScience Seed Grant Program at the university.