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Research Summary

At What Alcohol Consumption Level Does Atrial Fibrillation Risk Increase?

Alcohol consumption increases the risk for atrial fibrillation (AF), but it is not known if this risk follows a dose-response pattern. To address this question, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 14 cohort or case-control studies. The relative effect on AF of the highest category of alcohol consumption compared with the lowest was calculated for each individual study, pooled together, then analyzed with regression analyses that best fit the data (linear and “spline”).

  • The cut-off for the highest alcohol consumption category ranged from 1.5–6 drinks per day in the included studies.
  • The pooled risk estimate for AF was 1.5 times greater for the highest alcohol consumption category compared with the lowest.
  • Alcohol consumption ranged from 4.0–86.4 g per day in the 9 studies used to assess the dose-response relationship. In this analysis, the risk for AF increased by 8% for each additional 10 g alcohol consumed per day.


This meta-analysis indicated increasing risk for AF with increasing alcohol consumption. The article does not provide appropriate data to calculate “number needed to abstain” to prevent AF, nor does it provide an exact cut off. However, risk appeared to begin increasing even at levels generally considered to be low risk for health consequences. Although these results will aid alcohol risk discussions with patients, they are not strong enough to change current recommendations for less risky alcohol consumption levels. Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc


Kodama S, Saito K, Tanaka S, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation: a meta-analysis. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;57(4):427–436.