No amount of alcohol is good for heart health, genetic study finds

It was once believed that drinking small amounts of alcohol could have beneficial effects, especially red wine, but a recent study has now thrown cold water on the ‘myth’. It comes after the World Heart Federation (WHF) released an advisory in late January stating that no amount of alcohol is good for the heart.

“At the World Heart Federation, we decided it was imperative to talk about alcohol and health harms, as well as social and economic harms, because there is an impression in the general population, and even among health professionals, that it’s good for the heart,” said Beatriz Champagne, chair of the advocacy committee.

The WHF then saw its argument reinforced by a genetic and medical study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. An analysis of 371,000 people in the UK found that any level of alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Unsurprisingly, the more you drink, the greater the risk, with the report stating that there are “uneven and exponential increases in risk at higher intake levels”.

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The study concluded that the risk of cardiovascular disease is “relatively modest” for those who drink up to seven drinks a week, although the risk is still high. The likelihood of developing heart disease then increases exponentially after this figure.

The researchers defined light drinking as eight “drinks” per week, moderate drinking as 8 to 15 drinks per week, and heavy drinking as 15 to 24 drinks. Any overrun was considered “abusive”. A drink was considered to be approximately a pint of five percent beer, a small glass of wine, or a “shot” of spirits.

Those who drank less tended to have healthier lifestyles, including better diets and higher activity levels.

“The reported cardioprotective effects of light to moderate alcohol consumption may be the product of confounding lifestyle factors,” the report states.

There also seems to be a trend away from alcohol consumption among younger generations.

University College London revealed in 2015 that young people are drinking less and less. Looking at data from England’s Annual Health Survey, they found that the proportion of 16-24 year olds who didn’t drink alcohol rose from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015. The same period of 10 years.

Published in the journal BMC Public Health, 25% of young people classified themselves as “non-drinkers” in 2015. The figure is expected to be higher seven years later.

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