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Research Summary

Alcohol Consumption Is Associated with Other Healthy Lifestyle Factors

The causal role of alcohol in cardioprotection remains uncertain. Researchers at the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention measured alcohol intake, cardiovascular (CV) risk factors, and health status among 149,773 subjects in the urban Paris- Ile-de-France Cohort. Subjects were classified according to alcohol intake: i.e., never, low (<10 g per day), moderate (10–30 g per day), and high (>30 g per day). Former drinkers were analyzed as a separate group.

  • After adjusting for age, men who drank moderately were more likely to display clinical and biological characteristics associated with lower CV risk (lower body mass index, heart rate, pulse pressure, fasting triglycerides, fasting glucose, and stress and depression scores as well as higher levels of subjective health status, respiratory function, social status, and physical activity).
  • Women who drank moderately also had characteristics associated with lower CV risk (lower waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol).
  • Alcohol intake was strongly associated with plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in both sexes.

Comments:

The assumption of the authors in this study is that the health benefits seen in people who drink moderately are due to characteristics other than alcohol. Although moderate drinkers tend to be healthier than nondrinkers in many ways, clinical trials have demonstrated a causal role for alcohol for some factors, including higher HDL cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity. It is true that other associations may be partially due to confounding by unmeasured factors; however, most recent prospective studies that have rigorously controlled for confounders support an inverse association between alcohol drinking and CV risk independent of other health characteristics. R. Curtis Ellison, MD

Reference:

Hansel B, Thomas F, Pannier B, et al. Relationship between alcohol intake, health and social status and cardiovascular risk factors in the urban Paris-Ile-De-France Cohort: Is the cardioprotective action of alcohol a myth? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010;64(6):561–568.

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