The large multi-center international study, which was co-led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, calls into question previous research that suggests light to moderate drinking may be good for the heart.
The study defines light to moderate drinking as consuming 0.6 to 0.8 fluid ounces of alcohol a day, or 17 to 23 ml, which is roughly what a 175 ml glass of wine contains.
The 155 researchers – from the UK, continental Europe, North America, and Australia – pooled and analyzed data about links between drinking habits and heart health from 56 epidemiological studies covering more than 260,000 people of European descent
They found that people with a particular gene consumed 17% less alcohol per week, were less likely to binge drink, and were more likely to abstain from alcohol altogether, than non- carriers.
These lower alcohol consumers typically had a 10% average reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure and a lower body mass index (BMI).
The researchers conclude that reducing alcohol consumption across all levels of consumption – even light to moderate drinking – is beneficial for heart health.
Co-lead author Michael Holmes, a research assistant professor in Perelman School of Medicine’s department of Transplant Surgery, says, “Contrary to what earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol has a negative impact upon heart health.”
He explains how for some time, observational studies have suggested only heavy drinking is bad for the heart, and that light drinking might even provide some benefit, and this has led some people to believe moderate consumption is good for their health, even lowering their risk of heart disease.