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A Glass Full of Heart Concerns

Even Moderation Alcohol Intake Poses Risks

Young woman with glass of wine at home.

John Salak –

It is no secret that excessive alcohol consumption can result in a large menu of nasty consequences including high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, digestive problems and even cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goes on to warn that the habit can also hurt unborn children, foster mental issues, of course, lead to short-term physical impairments and limitations that might harm others.

Moderate consumption of alcohol (maybe two drinks daily) if not always praised, at least usually doesn’t raise major red flags for most health organizations that have historically issued consumption guidelines. Some research, to the relief of many, even suggests that an occasional glass of red wine may provide some benefits due to its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and lipid-regulating impacts.

New findings out of Massachusetts, however, are looking to quash the idea that any intake—moderation consumption—is beneficial altogether. In fact, the research published by a combined team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard claims any alcohol intake can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The team’s conclusions were based on data drawn from almost 400,000 people who averaged 57 years old and consumed 9.2 drinks per week.

The data admittedly showed that light to moderate drinkers had the lowest heart disease risk, compared to heavy drinkers and even those who abstained completely. The researchers, however, were quick to note that light to moderate drinkers may have reduced their risk because they had healthier lifestyles than abstainers. They exercised more, had better diets and smoked less. The Massachusetts team theorized that these lifestyle elements and not their moderated consumption reduced their risk of heart disease compared to abstainers.

Genetics along with the amount of regular alcohol consumption also impacts risk factors. Researchers, for example, found that the chance of developing cardiovascular disease increased slightly for those who had zero and seven drinks per week, but the risk rose considerably higher as intake increased from seven to 14 and 21 drinks weekly. The team stressed, however, that even low to moderate consumption of alcohol, which is one drink daily for women and two a day for men, does increase the risk of heart disease.

“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,” reported Dr Krishna G. Aragam, the study’s senior author.

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